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Nestor Makhno 

The Life of an Anarchist 

By Victor Peters 

Winnipeg, Canada 

The drawing of Makhno on the cover is taken from the Italian Anarch 
newspaper Umanita Nova, Rome. October 14, 1967. 

© Copyright 1 970 by Echo Books, Winnipeg, Canada. All rights reserved 
Printed by D. W. Friesen & Sons Ltd., Altona, Manitoba, Canada 


The increasing violence and creeping tendency towards 
anarchy in North America, and other parts of the world, is 
causing growing concern among the serious minded citi- 
zens. The breakdown of law and order in society inevitably 
leads to the destruction of liberty ending in anarchy. 
Thoughtful citizens must therefore study the situations 
which could deteriorate into anarchy and through better 
education, organized action and legislation endeavor to 
present such an undesirable result. 

Victor Peters' study of Nestor Makhno and his imple- 
mentation of the principles of anarchism is indeed timely. 
Makhno rapidly emerged on the scene in the region of 
southern Ukraine, once the stronghold of the Cossack Host, 
after the downfall of the Russian monarchy in 1917, at a 
time when law and order disintegrated in the Russian 
empire. Revolution and violence became the order of the 
day. Makhno organized his own type of government and 
established his own "republic." He had effective control 
over a large region for about two years, having defended 
his "state" against the operations of Russian tsarist and 
republican forces, Ukrainian armies and the Red Army. 
Considering himself a sort of a Robin Hood, he plundered 
Prosperous farmers and encouraged looting for the benefit 
°f his followers. A vociferous advocate of the principles of 
anarchism he ruled his armed bands, which on occasions 
numbered in the thousands, with an iron hand as a 

dictator. Finally, by resorting to duplicity and superior 
force, the Red Army defeated "Father" Makhno, as he loved 
to be titled. He died in Paris, virtually unknown and 
without friends. 

Although Makhno has become a legendary figure, stilll 
talked about throughout Ukraine and southern Russia, 
little mention is made of him in history and little has been 
written about him. Now, after the celebrations of the fiftieth 
anniversaries of Ukrainian Independence and of the estab- 
lishment of the Soviet Union, it is appropriate to record 
and assess the life and achievements of a man who has 
left his imprint on millions of people. 

Victor Peters is well qualified to write this monograph. 
Of German-Mennonite background he comes from the region 
where Makhno carried out his experiment in anarchism. Mr. 
Peters studied Russian and Soviet history at the University | 
of Manitoba and the University of Gottingen and has been 
a professor of history at Moorhead State College for many 
years. This combination of heritage and academic training 
equips the author to present an authentic and interesting 

Mr. Peters is to be congratulated for producing a stud^ 
in considerable depth by employing all the techniques of 
a trained historian and presenting his topic in the spirit of 
objectivity. His biography of Nestor Makhno is an important 
contribution that sheds more light on the events and the 
times of the establishment of the Ukrainian National 
Republic, the subsequent Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic 
and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. 

Not only history scholars and students but all readers 
can learn something from this book, in the field of human 
and political relations. 

Senator Paul Yuzyk 1 
Professor of Russian and Soviet History j 
University of Ottawa 
Ottawa, Canada 
July 1,1970 


In 1921 the Red Army emerged as the victor in a long 
and destructive civil war. The factors contributing to its 
success varied in the different parts of Russia. In the 
Ukraine, where the war lasted longest, the victory went to 
the Red Army in no small measure because of the activities 
of a talented anarchist, Nestor Makhno. For long periods 
Makhno and his followers, known as Makhnovtse, virtually 
controlled some of the most populous provinces of the 
Ukraine. Despite his important role in the civil war, Makhno 
has received very little attention. Exiled Slavic writers and 
historians, as well as Western historians, rarely or only 
briefly mention him. The reasons were perhaps partly 
ethnic loyalties, for Makhno and his movement were 
regarded not only as a highly controversial but also as a 
somewhat unsavory subject; or the records on Makhno 
were so meager or partisan that his activities were demoted 
to a footnote, as in E. H. Carr's authoritative history of the 
Russian revolution. 

Soviet historiography on the other hand, determined to 
lump all opponents of the Soviets into one camp, played 
down the role of Makhno and the Makhnovshchina ("Makhno's 
movement"). Lenin and Trotsky were quite prepared to 
come to terms with Makhno as long as Makhno's forces 
helped them against the White armies. As soon as these 
were decisively defeated in the Ukraine and the last 
remnants under General Wrangel had embarked from 


Sebastopol, the Red Army undertook effective steps to liqui- 
date its late allies. From that time on whenever the 
Makhnovshchina was mentioned, as in The Great Soviet 
Encyclopedia, it was branded a "criminal-anarchist counter- 
revolutionary" movement among the kulak peasantry which 
obstructed the Soviet cause and deferred Soviet victory. 

While historians almost completely ignored Makhno, 
there were some sources available on the subject. Foremost 
among them were the writings of Nestor Makhno himself, 
who, during his exile in Paris wrote his memoirs, a rambling 
and somewhat incoherent three volume history, which is 
not available in English. He also contributed numerous 
articles to Russian anarchist periodicals. A much stronger 
presentation of Makhno's movement was written by his 
associate, Peter Arshinov, a work which was published in 
the early 1920's in Russian, German and French. Then 
Voline, another associate of Makhno, brought out his history 
Besides these partisan works we have the more journalistic 
account of Max Nomad, who, in his Apostles of Revolution, 
has a chapter on "Nestor Makhno, the Bandit Who Saved 
Moscow." Among recent historians, John J. Reshetar, Jr., in 
his The Ukrainian Revolution, 1917-1920, has a few pages on 
Makhno; David Footman, formerly with the British Foreign 
Service, in Civil War in Russia, devotes a full chapter to 
him; while Arthur E. Adams, in Bolsheviks in the Ukraine, 
gives more space to the freebooter Grigoriev than to 
Makhno. Three very recent but more general books on 
anarchism, one by Canadian George Woodcock, another by 
British historian James Joll and a third by the French writer 
Daniel Guerin, each make some mention of Makhno. Most 
of these books, when they deal with Makhno, rely on 
Arshinov. One of the best studies on anarchism in Russia 
in general is Paul Avrich's The Russian Anarchists. The 
most recent book devoting some space to Makhno is the 
Cohn-Bendit book Obsolete Communism; the Left-Wing 
Alternative, but it is more an endorsation than a study. 

When Makhno played a role in Russia his negotiations 
and operations did not lend themselves for a documentation 
by his staff. Frequently his agreements were verbal, arrived 
at in conference or by telephone. Then again he changed 
his allies, so that today's friend could be tomorrow's foe. 


In such cases recorded agreements later provided only 
embarrassment. Moreover, Makhno engaged in very fluid 
and mobile warfare. In the process of hasty retreats, as 
he himself complains, the few records which were kept, 
were often lost. There was one source available, however, 
which had not yet been tapped: the numerous emigrants 
from Russia, people who had left the Soviet Union in the 
1920's and 1940's and who had personally experienced the 
Makhnovshchina. In response to appeals which I made 
through the Canadian and American foreign language 
press, I gained respondents, former opponents or supporters 
of Makhno, as well as people who had been pawns or 
victims of the Makhnovshchina. Others remembered Makhno 
when he was young, still others knew him in exile in Paris, 
and others again pointed out obscure sources, material that 
had appeared in Ukrainian or Russian journals and news- 

While I cannot include all the names of the generous 
and willing respondents, I feel it an obligation and courtesy 
to mention a number of them. Mr. I. Antypenko, Philadelphia, 
a native of Gulai-Polye, was most helpful in establishing 
the sequence of events before Makhno's imprisonment. Mr. 
Anatol Kurdydyk, Winnipeg, had collected and published 
material on Makhno when he was editor of Nedilia (The 
Week), a Ukrainian paper in Lvov. But his archives had 
been destroyed when the Soviet armies occupied Eastern 
Poland in 1939. However, a letter from Mr. Michael 
Petrovsky, Toronto, informed me that he had early files 
of Nedilia, which he made available to me. Mr. Dmitro 
Mykytiuk, Winnipeg, a former officer in the Ukrainian 
(Galician) army, was not only himself an excellent source 
but also assisted me in tracing relevant material in Ukrain- 
ian libraries. Most helpful also was Mr. J. Cherney, Detroit, 
who supplied me with a wealth of anarchist literature on 
the subject of Makhno, including the files of Delo Truda 
(The Cause of Labor) and Probuzhdenie (The Awakening), 
anarchist periodicals to which Makhno was a regular con- 
tributor. Mr. Ivan Topolye (the name, at his request, is 
an alias) provided a detailed account of his life as a 
deserter and involuntary recruit in Makhno's army. 

Mme. Nina Kornijenko, San Francisco, and Mrs. Anna 


Goerz (nee Neufeld), Vancouver, Canada, were both the | 
source of useful information. Mme. Kornijenko was born 
few miles from Dibrovka (Veliki-Michaelovka), on an estate] 
which was separated by a small river from the great! 
Dibrovka forest, which Makhno and Tchus, his cavalry] 
commander, used as a hideaway. And it was on the khutor 
(estate) of the parents of Mrs. Goerz, a few miles away] 
from Gulai-Polye, that Makhno began one of his first 
property requisitions and distributions. From Dibrovka it- 
self also came the respondent Reverend N. Pliczkowski, 
Prospect, Australia, a relative of the mentioned Fedor 
Tchus. While I was unable to use his manuscript on Tchus,) 
Reverend Pliczkowski kindly referred me to Mr. A. Moska- 
lenko, New York, and the latter indicated in a summary] 
of the contentthat it was a defense of Tchus (and Makhno) 
Similarly, Reverend George Jahodsky, whom I interviewed' 
in Winnipeg and who has an extensive collection of material | 
on Makhno, felt that it would be inaccurate to reduce' 
Makhno's role to that of a bandit and terrorist. Like Father 
Jahodsky, Mr. Zenon Jaworskyj, Ann Arbor, Michigan, hac 
met Makhno, but as a representative of the Galician Rifle- 
men (Ukrainskii Sitchestovi Streltsi), and he was corre- 
spondingly more critical of the anarchist partisan. Another 
source was Mr. Peter Olejnicki, secretary of the Hetman 
organization in Winnipeg. 

Others who contributed very relevant information on 
Makhno included, in the United States: Dr. Fedor Meleshko, 
Professor Vasyl Chaplenko, both of New York, Mr. Kalenik 
Lissiuk, Ontario, California, and Mr. D. Gorbacevich, Jack- 
son, N.J.; and in Canada: Mr. G. Toews, St. Catharines, 
Mr. P. Vakula, Pickering, Ontario, Mr. H. B. Wiens, Leam- 
ington, Mr. Alexander Rybka, London, Mr. H. A. Peters,] 
Sardis, B.C., and Mr. N. Klassen, Vancouver. I had hopec 
to use the files of the German army archives for the year 
1918, when German troops occupied the Ukraine. In Frei-j 
burg, where the Militararchiv is deposited, I found that 
most of the relevant sources were destroyed through an 
air raid on Potsdam on April 14, 1945. Again I was forced; 
to supplement the readily available secondary sources,! 
beginning with the memoirs of Generals Ludendorff and! 
Hoffmann, with reports from German respondents who had 


bee n in the Ukraine at that time, among them Mr. Walter 
BuroW, Essen, Mr. Heinrich Albeck, Salzgitter, Germany, 
and the late Mr. Jacob Homsen, Alexander, Manitoba. 

For the period of Makhno's exile in Paris there were 
the friends of Makhno who gave their information unstint- 
jngly: Mme. May Picqueray, who received Makhno as a 
refugee in Paris, Mme. Ida Mett, who worked with him 
over a period of years, and the historian Dr. Daniel 
Guerin. The Centre International de Recherches Sur 
L'Anarchism, Lausanne, the Federation Anarchiste, Paris, 
and the Police Department of Paris, whose archives I 
checked for the records of Russian political emigres, were 
most cooperative. 

Most respondents themselves had been involved in one 
way or another in those turbulent events. As a result their 
reports were often not only vivid but also emotionally 
charged. The work of the historian is to weigh, select and 
interpret the evidence as truthfully as he can. This is no 
easy assignment, especially in the case of such a controver- 
sial subject as we have here and I anticipate strong, not 
to say violent, disagreements. For this reason I am especially 
indebted to Senator Paul Yuzyk, a distinguished represen- 
tative of the Canadian-Ukrainian community, for writing 
the foreword. 

I would also like to express a word of appreciation 
to those people who assisted me in the translation of the 
source material and the correspondence. They included: 
Anna Sudermann, Winnipeg, formerly a teacher at Chortitza, 
Ukraine; my colleagues at Moorhead, Professors A. Khosh- 
kish and G. Baratto; Professor H. Wiebe, of the University 
of Manitoba, and Dr. G. Hildebrandt, of the University of 
Gottingen; my daughter, Rosmarin Peters, who inter- 
viewed respondents in Paris; and my wife, who was at 
all times a patient critic. I owe a special debt to Mr. J. A. 
Watne, who provided the maps, and to Sharon Burns and 
Margaret Vorvick who typed the final draft of the manu- 
script and assisted with the index. 

Moorhead State College, Minnesota 
July, 1969 



Foreword by Senator Paul Yuzyk 


1. Gulai-Polye and the Early Years of Nestor Makhno ... 1 

2. Butyrki Prison and the Triumphant Return 25 

3. The Rada-Skoropadsky Interlude and the Rise of 
the Makhnovshchina 35 

4. The Insurgent Army, Its Membership and Operations 
in the Civilian Sector 44 

5. The Insurgent Army, Its Organization and Operations 
in Combat 60 

6. Shifting Alliances: The Insurgents, the Red Army, 

the Volunteer Army 7 

7. Nestor Makhno, the Exile 89 

8. The Man and the Legend 

Appendix 115 

Bibliography 129 

Index 132 


1. Gulai-Polye and the Early Years of Nestor Makhno 

In Russian folklore heroes and villains of history and 
literature often blend into a curious heritage which has 
found expression in song, legends and tales for long winter 
evenings. "Stenka Razin" is perhaps the most popular 
Russian folksong. Razin, the rebel who razed the countryside 
in a revolt against the upper classes, was beheaded on 
Red Square in Moscow in 1670. The historical Stenka Razin 
allied himself with the peasants and lower clergy against 
oppression, church reforms and Westernization. But these 
historical events do not provide the substance for the folk- 
song. Instead it singles out a legendary episode to sing the 
praises of Stenka Razin and his dedication to the people. 
According to the song, the slightly mellowed warrior, 
together with his cossacks, takes a boat trip down the 
Volga. As he fondles a captured Persian princess, he over- 
hears his own men mutter that Stenka Razin is not what he 
used to be, that his mind is directed towards pleasure 
instead of towards the deliverance of his country. The 
mumblings, overheard by Razin, arouse the old resoluteness 
in the warrior. He takes the princess in his arms, carries 
her to the edge of the boat and sacrifices her to the Volga. 
Stenka Razin stands redeemed before his men. Similar 
stories of resolute action and violence have been woven 
around another cossack rebel, Emilian Pugachov, and 
around Gogol's literary hero, Taras Bulba. 

It is in this tradition and against this background that 
we must project Nestor Makhno. Indeed, it may not be irrele- 
vant that Makhno, that twentieth century counterpart to 
earlier outbursts of fury and passion, was born in the 
country and region of Taras Bulba. The same irregularly 
distributed hills, gullies and ravines, the forests and steppes, 
the same river plavnas, or swamps, which served as the 


habitat to that audacious cossack who fought in turn Tatar 
Pole and Moscovite, also extended their protective hospi 
tality to Makhno and his followers. 

Nestor Ivanovich Mikhnenko was born on October 27 
1889,' in the Ukrainian village of Gulai-Polye. The name 
Makhno, by which he is generally known, was not taken by 
him for political reasons as was the case with so many 
Russian revolutionaries, but was a popular corruption of the 
patronym. Years before Makhno's name became a house 
hold word in the Ukraine, his widowed mother was known 
by the villagers as Makhnovka. Makhno's father, Ivan 
Mikhnenko, was a village laborer and peasant. When he 
died he left behind his widow and four sons, of whom the 
youngest, Nestor, was ten months old. Born a serf, Mikhnenko 
senior appears to have been a harmless individual, for no 
account mentions him except in connection with his son. 

Little is also known about Makhno's mother, but there 
are indications that she may have exercised a considerable 
influence over her family. There is Makhno's own reference 
to her in his memoirs, where he tells of his return to 
Gulai-Polye in 1 91 7. 2 On the street he meets a former 
policeman who had on one occasion searched his home, 
and who, when his mother had protested, had slapped her. 
Now this man approached Makhno with an extended hand, 
and the latter recalls that it filled him with "an unspeakable 
disgust" to hear the voice and observe "the gestures, the 
hypocrisy of this Judas." As he describes it, he trembled 
with hatred and feverishly felt his revolver in his pocket, 
asking himself whether he should "kill the cur on the spot, 
or if it were better to wait." There is also the case of 
Makhno's first name. While its selection may have been 
accidental, Nestor is not a common Slavic name, as Profes- 
sor Call of the University of Manitoba, has pointed out. 
The first historic Nestor was a wise counselor and warrior 
who fought with the Greeks against Troy. Then there was 
the twelfth century Nestor, a monk in the Monastery of 
the Caves who compiled the first Kievan chronicle. Thus, 

1 The Bolshaya Sovetskaya Encyclopedia (The Great Soviet Encyclopedia), 
Moscow, 1954, XXVI, 548, gives 1884 as Makhno's year of birth. I have accepted 
the date (1889) given by Makhno and his wife. 

- Nestor Makhno, Ruskaya Revolutsia na Ukraina (The Russian Revolution in the 
Ukraine), Paris, 1929. Chapter 3. See: Appendix. 


vvhen Nestor Makhno was born his mother may well have 
cherished the dream that her son too would grow up to 
be a warrior or scholar. 

Moreover, Makhno's three brothers, though in many 
ways less talented, developed into as passionate rebels and 
anarchists as their youngest brother. Whether their character 
development and political inclinations attributed to 
the home influence or to the political and social conditions 
prevailing in Russia at the time, all three paid for their 
activities with their lives. Emilian was executed as a partisan 
in 1918 by the Austro-Hungarian occupation forces, Grishka 
(Gregor) was killed in an engagement with Denikin's troops 
at Uman, in September 1919, and Ssava, the oldest of the 
brothers, was captured and shot when the Red Army occupied 
Gulai-Polye in 1920. 

As soon as he was old enough young Nestor Makhno 
attended the local elementary school. During the summer 
months he, like many of the village boys, worked for his 
neighbors or for the landowners who had their khutors 
(large farmsteads or estates), around Gulai-Polye, generally 
herding geese, sheep or cattle, or riding or driving teams 
of horses or oxen before the plow or cultivator. At the 
age of twelve, having completed public school, this became 
his. work from early spring to late autumn. His brothers 
were similarly occupied. The winter months were spent 
at home in enforced idleness. Though the Makhno brothers 
engaged in their seasonal work, partly because of the low 
wages and partly because of their spending habits, their 
mother continued to live in great poverty in her little 
khata, or cottage, on the outskirts of the village. "On the 
Makhno yard," writes Antypenko, a nath/e of Gulai-Polye, 
almost reproachfully, "you never saw a chicken or a piglet, 
or an armful of straw."' 1 

When Nestor Makhno was seventeen years old he suc- 
ceeded in getting work at a local foundry. He was engaged 
as a helper, painting wagons, grain fanners, reapers and 
other farm implements. Since there were a number of 
industrial enterprises, there was no lack of work. At one 
time Makhno also worked at the small Kroeger plant, which 

: Mr. I. Antypenko, Philadelphia, a native of Gulai-Polye, in a letter dated 
March 28, 1968. 



was a Mennonite undertaking. 1 Makhno's birthplace, Gulai- 
Polye, located in the province of Ekaterinoslav, was more 
than an ordinary village. Aside from its romantic name, 
which means "a field to roam," it had over ten thousand 
inhabitants and numerous industrial enterprises, both reflect- 
ing the national and economic diversity of the Ukraine. 
Most of the people of the Ukraine, or "Little Russia," were 
of course Ukrainians, but there were also millions of j 
Russians, Poles and Jews, more than half a million Germans, 
and numerous national groups such as Bulgars, Tatars 
and Greeks. All these nationalities were also represented 
in and around Gulai-Polye. 

Gulai-Polye was located on both sides of the Gaichur 
river, a small sluggish tributary of the Dnieper. A bridge 
connected the two parts of the village which extended to a; 
length of from eight to ten versts, or five to seven miles. 
While Gulai-Polye, like most Ukrainian villages, was a 
cluster-type of village, it was rather narrow for its length. 
Its inhabitants were peasants, workers, tradesmen, 
merchants and professional people. Jews, Russians, and 
Germans, the latter including Mennonites, were strongly 
represented in Gulai-Polye. In the center of the village, on 
the market place, was the volost (county) administration 
building and also one of the village's two Orthodox 
churches. Gulai-Polye also had the resident regional chief 
of police, a municipal hospital and a post and telegraph 
office. There were two large elementary schools, one 
secondary school and also a small school for the German 
children in which the Lutherans had their church services 

'A different version of Makhno's youth is presented by K. V. Gerassimenko in 
Islorik e Sovremennik, Berlin, 1923. A slightly expanded instalment series, 
written by J. Petrovich but based largely on Gerassimenko. appeared in 1935 
in Nedilia (The Week), a Ukrainian paper published in Lvov, Poland. According 
to Gerassimenko (and Petrovich), Makhno was apprenticed to a textile shop in 
Mariupol, a seaport on the Sea of Azov and not far away from Gulai-Polye. 
Here Makhno showed little interest in the trade and was morose and surly 
to his employer. He was also indolent at work, for which he was beaten. 
Makhno would retaliate by cutting off buttons of his employer's coat or adding 
castor oil to his tea. His spare time he would spend with the street urchins, or 
fishing in the Sea of Azov. Once, when his employer's wife wanted to pull his 
ear, he bit her arm. Gerassimenko also gives 1884 as Makhno's year of birth, 
and later has him studying as a teacher. Though Gerassimenko had met 
Makhno during the Civil War, there is evidence that his source on Makhno's early 
years was inaccurate. That he was a teacher was a false entry in his forged 
passport, provided for him in 1918 by Lenin to permit him to travel behind 
German lines. 



on Sunday. The community had a synagogue together with 
a school for Jewish children. 

Besides these public institutions Gulai-Polye had several 
iron foundries, one farm implement factory, two large 
flour mills and several windmills. There was one brandy 
plant supplying not only local needs but also the require- 
ments of the surrounding villages. Then there were grain 
dealers, banks, numerous shops and offices and on the out- 
skirts some barracks for the seasonal workers who arrived 
in May from the provinces of Poltava and Chernigov to 
find employment on the estates and farms around Gulai- 
Polye. The buildings in the center of the village were built 
of brick or stone and were quite impressive. While the village 
boasted some large comfortable homes, most of the vil- 
lagers lived in clay-built cottages, which had straw 
thatched roofs and dirt floors. The main streets were paved 
with cobblestones, but the side streets, alleys and paths 
were unpaved. 

An all-weather cobblestone road connected the village 
to the Gulai-Polye railway station which was located on 
the Berdiansk-Chaplino line, about five miles away. The 
traffic on this road was heavy. All day horse-drawn wagons 
and carts hauled the products of the local industries, farm 
implements, grain and flour and iron to the station, and 
returned with coal and coke, textile goods and household 
articles, for the factories and village stores. 

To the casual visitor the conditions and the appearance 
of Gulai-Polye shortly after the turn of the century could 
appear almost idyllic. There were public hospitals and 
schools, there was evidence of tolerance as Orthodox, 
Protestant and Jew went to his respective place of worship, 
and factories produced machines which replaced much of 
the soul-killing manual work on the farms. Yet the in- 
gredients of discontent were also present. While there were 
no great nobles and powerful financiers in and around 
Gulai-Polye, to attract the envy of the poor, there was a 
growing and somewhat smug middle class. The families 
of this class lived in good if not luxurious homes with 
carpeted floors, and hired the villagers as sevants to do the 
cooking, the laundry and the hoeing in the garden for 
them. The landless peasant was not starving. He had his 


cottage-cheese vareniki, his buckwheat holubtse, and his 
borshch, but he saw that his employer had ham and vareniki, 
meat instead of buckwheat in the cabbage of his holubtse, 
and chicken in his borshch. 

Moreover, there was a backlog of deep hostility towards 
the repressive and immobile tsarist despotism. The gradual 
land and social reforms and the promised political reforms 
of 1905 did not only not appease the landless peasantry, 
but on the contrary incited it to greater political activity. In 
this too Gulai-Polye reflected the unrest that stirred the whole 
vast Russian empire. The unique development, which 
set Russia apart from the West, was that large segments 
of the population, from peasants to princes, from workers 
to the intelligentsia, saw the solution of their problems and 
the hope for greater freedom for the people in anarchism, 
in the rejection of all government. It was Bakunin's view 
according to James Joll, that "the Russian peasants were in 
a particularly strong position, since they had traditional 
forms of organization, village communes and the like, so 
that they might well be in a position to set an example 
to the working class in the more advanced countries, if 
only they could be given vigorous revolutionary leadership.""' 

The anarchist movement also generated support in the 
West, for in less than a decade, from 1894 to 1901, 
anarchists assassinated among others, President Carnot of 
France, King Umberto of Italy, Empress Elizabeth of 
Austria and President McKinley of the United States. But 
while the anarchist philosophy in the West was confined 
to relatively small groups of extremists meriting little 
attention, in Russia there was not only widespread popular 
support for it, but its leaders were also internationally 
recognized intellectuals and writers like Michael Bakunin 
(1814-1876) and Prince Peter Kropotkin (1842-1921). The 
anarchist axiom, that if bad government is evil, then good 
government is worse, for it will be tolerated and accepted 
by the people, was interpreted by the young anarchists 
very literally. Even minor state and local officials would be 
assassinated for no other reason than that they served the 
state or one of its agencies. Anarchist activity was spurred 

■James Joll, The Anarchists, Universal Library Edition, 1966. p. 93. 


even to greater fervor by the disastrous Russo-Japanese 
war (1904-1905), which exposed the political and military 
weakness of the autocracy. The sporadic and violent revolts 
which spread across Russia also stirred the villagers of 
Gulai-Polye. There were public gatherings, meetings and 
demonstrations. At the height of the unrest there was a strike 
at several plants, and the workers marched to those factories 
where the employees had not stopped work, to force them 
to strike. There were cases of looting, arson and bloodshed. 

Most of the initiative had been provided by members of 
the local intelligentsia (mostly teachers), who had held meet- 
ings with the clerks and workers, but there were also 
"alien" agitators from the district and provincial capitals 
of Alexandrovsk (now Zaporozhye) and Katerinoslav.' ; Be- 
fore long, however, the government regained control over the 
rebels, in Gulai-Polye as elsewhere in Russia. A troop of 
Don cossacks arrived in Gulai-Polye (some people suspected 
that they were units of the police militia disguised as 
cossacks for greater effect) and established order. Whoever 
showed himself on the streets after curfew was brutally 
whipped. Others who were arrested in their homes were 
led through the street and beaten with the butts of 
muskets. These police measures, reports one eye-witness, 
left an indelible mark on the village population and 
sowed the seed for the covert unrest that infected especially 
the young of Gulai-Polye. 

Since Gulai-Polye later became the center of 
anarchist activity, indeed was sometimes spoken of as 
"Makhnograd" long before Lenin, Stalin and Kalinin 
consented to give their names to other cities, it is necessary 
to trace the anarchist spark there that led to so much 
unrest later. In 1907, shortly after the disturbances and 
the police intervention, there arrived in Gulai-Polye a young 
lad, eighteen or nineteen years of age, to visit some of 
his former classmates. His name was Volodya Antoni, a 
Czech. About five or six years earlier he had attended the 
public school at Gulai-Polye, and lived with his uncle who 
owned and operated a beer-saloon near the market place. 

'Most place names in the text appear in their Russian form, an exception is the 
name of the city of Katerinoslav. which appears in its Ukrainian form. 
Katerinoslav is the present Dnepropetrovsk. 


Volodya Antoni had been a quiet boy at school. Pale 
and near-sighted, his classmates remembered him as "the 
boy with the glasses." After completing school he had left, 
and now was back to renew old friendships. 

Young Antoni carried on political discussions with his 
friends and after he had gained their confidence disclosed 
to them that he was a member of an anarchist movement. 
He acquainted his friends with the anarchist program, 
returned to Katerinoslav where he now made his home, and 
came back once more with anarchist pamphlets and 
brochures. The village boys, who had never gone far be- 
yond Gulai-Polye and had received but a scant education, 
were eager to follow the leadership of Antoni after he 
suggested that they form a cell of the outlawed Anarchist 
party and submit to the direction of the Katerinoslav party 
headquarters. Volodya Antoni provided the liaison between 
the two groups. Before long one member of the Gulai- 
Polye group, Alexander Semeniuta, was drafted for military 
service. He almost immediately deserted, fled the country 
and then returned illegally to establish contact with his 
wife and two brothers. Sometimes he was accompanied 
on his visits by Antoni and they would smuggle not only 
anarchist literature into the village but also supply their 
friends with small arms and revolvers. 

The "activist" anarchist group in Gulai-Polye at this 
time numbered ten men, but the number of sympathizers was 
much greater. The "activists" became impatient to expand 
their work, for which they required money. Semeniuta's 
advice, to begin with "expropriations" in Gulai-Polye and 
use terror when necessary, met with approval. Thoroughly 
imbued with the anarchist doctrine that "the destructive 
spirit is also at the same time the creative spirit," they 
began their "expropriations." The first attempt was suc- 
cessful and netted them five hundred rubles, with which 
they bought paper and a hectograph. They produced some 
anarchist proclamations and distributed them at night on 
the streets of Gulai-Polye. The people assumed that this 
was the work of some agitators from the city and not even 
the police suspected that it was the work of some of their 
own village boys. When an inebriate "activist" began to 


disclose the source of the proclamation, he was shot and 
killed by his friends. 

The second "expropriation," an attack on a mail 
carriage delivering money to the station, produced another 
victim. A policeman who had been assigned to accompany 
the carriage was shot. Since the policeman was well liked 
in the village, was married and had children, the 
anarchists, at night, delivered an envelope with one hundred 
rubles to his wife. Faced with the increased lawlessness, 
the local chief of police requested the aid of a private 
detective from Alexandrovsk (Zaporozhye), who, no sooner 
had he arrived at Gulai-Polye, was also shot by the 
"activists." The speed and violence of the anarchist 
reaction convinced the police chief that the terrorists were 
villagers. He secretly recruited two peasants to report to 
him all suspected persons and activities. This was in the 
summer of 1908. In a matter of days the two men could 
report that the deserter, Alexander Semeniuta, had arrived 
from Katerinoslav and that the local anarchists would have a 
meeting that night in the home of one of their comrades, 
Ivan Levadney. 

The chief of police, Karachentsev, immediately went 
into action. He ordered the police sergeant Lepechenko and 
ten policemen to surround Levadney's house and arrest 
everyone found inside. The Levadney cottage lay on the 
edge of the village. While the men surrounded the house, 
Lepechenko remained at the gate. Hearing noises outside, 
the anarchists rushed out and both sides immediately 
opened fire. In this exchange Lepechenko was killed, another 
policeman was wounded and one of the anarchists, Prokop, 
a brother to Alexander Semeniuta, was also wounded in 
the leg. As the anarchists fled Alexander stopped to assist 
his brother. With the police in pursuit, Prokop realized 
that with the additional load Alexander would be unable 
to reach safety. He pleaded with his brother to set him 
down and save his own life. Alexander set him down near 
a house and followed his friends. By this time day began 
to dawn and when Prokop saw that the police were still 
about, he shot himself. The other anarchists, however, had 
succeeded in reaching the wheatfields and under the 
Protection of the tall grain made their way to an old 


windmill, where they remained until the danger had passed. 
Eventually they all reached Katerinoslav. Police chief 
Karachentsev suspected their destination and also left for 
the provincial capital. After several weeks of intensive 
work he succeeded in ferreting out four of the participants 
and returned with them to Gulai-Polye. 

In Gulai-Polye the four prisoners were cross-examined 
and additional village anarchists were arrested, among 
them Nestor Makhno. Makhno had not been directly as- 
sociated with the conspirators. Though his three brothers 
were anarchist sympathizers and Makhno had become a 
member of the movement, he had not been accepted for 
membership by the Gulai-Polye group. Makhno reputedly 
had a weakness for drink and when drunk he would become 
very excitable, quarrelsome and talkative. Physically un- 
prepossessive, small of stature, with a pale and pimply 
face, he made a "generally negative" impression. Dis- 
trusted and disliked by the other Gulai-Polye anarchists, he 
was not accepted into their inner circle. Makhno had been 
sufficiently active and abusive, however, to attract the ire 
of the police and for this reason was also arrested. All the 
prisoners were transferred to Alexandrovsk, where they 
remained for the winter. One of them, Ivan Levadney, in 
whose house the conspirators had met, escaped from prison 
and attempted to reach Gulai-Polye. The escape took place 
on a bitterly cold and blizzardy day and the following day 
Levadney was found frozen to death. The other prisoners 
were taken to Katerinoslav in the spring, where they 
received a court trial. 7 They were all found guilty, and, 
to stem the violence of anarchist activity, the sentences 
were unusually severe. Four of the anarchists were 
sentenced to death by hanging and several others, including 
Nestor Makhno, to life terms of hard labor (katorga). 
Makhno spent the next nine years in the Butyrki prison in 
Moscow, from which he was released by the general 
amnesty of March, 1 91 7. 

Arshinov, Voline and other partisans of Makhno have 
attempted to add to the aura of the young anarchist by 
attributing to him a role of leadership in this early Gulai- 

7 According to Galina Kusmenko, Makhno's wife, the trial took place in Odessa. 
See: Appendix. 


Polye episode. s According to them Makhno was also 
sentenced to be hanged, but his sentence was commuted 
to life imprisonment because of his youth. Other sources, 
including The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, dispute Makhno's 
early political exploits and maintain that he had a criminal 
record, that he was caught after he attempted to rob the 
state treasury at Berdiansk, charged with armed robbery 
and sentenced to life imprisonment. 

The severe sentences did not deter the terrorists still 
at large in Gulai-Polye. On the contrary, they increased 
their activity and especially Alexander Semeniuta, who had 
not been captured, was determined to kill the chief of police, 
Karachentsev, whom he blamed for the death of his 
brother. The anarchists had discovered that Karachentsev was 
in the habit of visiting his mistress on certain nights and 
on one such occasion they made an unsuccessful attempt 
on his life. The failure spurred them on. They knew that 
the police chief was a great friend and patron of the 
theater. Behind the scenes but unknown to the cast, with 
only one performer from their ranks, a son of a landed 
peasant and thus above suspicion, they directed the prepara- 
tion for a vecher ("evening"). When the chief of police was 
invited to be guest of honor and he accepted, word was 
sent secretly to Semeniuta to come. 

At the performance Semeniuta, with two loaded pistols 
in his pockets, occupied a seat two rows behind Karachentsev. 
Afraid that his quarry would again escape if he failed, 
Semeniuta decided against an assassination in the theater. 
After the curtain closed on the last act he hurriedly left the 
theater and hid behind a tree near the theater's exit. As 
Karachentsev left the performance and walked down the 
stairs Semeniuta fired three shots at him from the back, 
shouting "Death to all hangmen!" By the time the police 
arrived Semeniuta had disappeared in the darkness and 
Karachentsev was dead. 

A province-wide hunt was begun for the terrorist and a 
high price was set on his head. For a year there was no 

"Cf. Voline (V. M. Eichenbaum). The Unknown Revolution: Kronstadt 1917- 
Ukraine 1918-1921, translated by Holley Cantine. New York, 1955; and P. 
Arshinov, Isloria Makhnovskoqo Dvizhenia, 1918-1921 (A History ot the Makhno 
Movement, 1918-1921). Berlin, 1923. I used the German edition, Geschichle der 
Machno-Bewegung (1918-1921), Berlin. 1923. 


trace of him. Then one night he returned to his native village, 
in the company of a young anarchist woman companion. 
They prepared to stay overnight at one of the brothers of 
Makhno. But the police had traced Semeniuta's moves and 
followed him. At night they surrounded the house and 
called him to give himself up. He answered by firing at them. 
After a brief exchange of fire the police made a smoke- 
screen and, protected by the smoke, made their way into 
the house, only to find that Semeniuta was dead. The girl, 
slightly wounded, told them that he had committed suicide. 
The irony of this initial period of violence was that 
Volodya Antoni, the organizer of the first anarchist group 
in Gulai-Polye, had meanwhile emigrated to the United 


2. Butyrki Prison and the Triumphant Return 

Violent criminals or revolutionaries in pre-Revolution 
Russia were generally confined to one of three penitentiaries. 
There was the Peter-and-Paul Fortress at St. Petersburg, 
built on an island in the Neva river and used as a prison 
since the time of Peter the Great, Oreshek, or Schliisselburg, 
built on the southern shore of Lake Ladoga, and Butyrki 
prison, in the northwestern part of the city of Moscow. 
Butyrki, moreover, did not only serve as a prison but also as 
a place where prisoners were gathered before they were 
transported in groups to Siberia. Built in 1879 as a replace- 
ment for an older prison of the same name, Butyrki was 
known for its unusually severe regulations. These regula- 
tions were made even more restrictive in 1906 when prison- 
ers were even forbidden to approach windows within less 
than three steps. Between 1 907 and 1 91 3 there were no fewer 
than eleven executions of prisoners who violated some of 
the more severe restrictions. It was within the walls of 
Butyrki that Nestor Makhno spent the years from 1909 to 

In time Makhno was to find a friend and mentor in a 
fellow-inmate, Peter Arshinov, but neither Makhno nor 
Arshinov appear to have met some of those prisoners who 
subsequently were to wield power and influence in the 
Soviet Union. Felix Dzerzhinsky, founder and organizer of 
the Soviet secret police, served his prison term there from 
1910 until the amnesty of 1917, Emilian Yaroslavsky (1878- 
1 943), party historian, biographer of Stalin and member 
and early secretary of the Communist Central Committee, 
spent some years there, as did Vladimir Maiakovsky, Soviet 
'yicist and dramatist, who committed suicide in 1930. 
Except for the few references which Makhno himself made 



on his years of imprisonment, we have only Arshinov' 
brief account for this formative period in Makhno's life. 

Arshinov wrote that life in prison was hard anc 
without hope, but that Makhno "took pains to use it for the 
purpose of his education, and in this effort he displayed an 
unusual fervor." Makhno occupied much of his time b^ 
learning Russian grammar, concerned himself with 
mathematics, social history and literature, in short, con- 
tinues Arshinov, he acquired a "knowledge of history and 
politics which later was of considerable use to him in 
his revolutionary activities." 1 Makhno was a hot-headec 
young man who found it very difficult to observe the prison 
rules. Either he would quarrel with the guards and inmates, 
causing disturbances or in other ways annoy the prison 
officials, for which he would be placed in solitary confine- 
ment or in chains, or both. The long periods he spent 
in the stale, cold, damp solitary cells contributed to Makhno's 
poor health and to his early bouts with tuberculosis of the 

The Butyrki experience had a very decisive influence 1 
on Makhno. His bitterness against prisons and all authority 
grew into a paranoia. His hatred of prisons was so great 
that later, when his armies occupied towns and cities one 
of Makhno's first acts generally would be to release all 
prisoners and burn the prison. The prison, however, 
matured Makhno and served not only to solidify his vague 
anarchist ideology but also to develop in him a sense 
of mission. From an almost illiterate laborer he grew into 
an effective debater who could hold his own in the discussions 
with other political prisoners. Later, on one occasion, he 
was to boast to his visitor, Fedor Meleshko, that he had 
shared a cell with such notables as Minor and Gotz, but 
that they had not been able to dissuade him from his 
anarchist convictions.- The man who may have been 
largely responsible for this development in Makhno was 
Arshinov, who was later to become one of his chief 

P. Arshinov (Arschinoff), Geschichte der Machno-Bewegung , 63. 
F. Meleshko, "Nestor Makhno ta yogo anarkhia" (Nestor Makhno and His ■ 
Anarchy), Chervona Kalina, Lvov, 1935. Bertram D. Wolfe, Three Who Made 
A Revolution, lists Abram Gotz and Minor as two prominent Jewish leaders 
of the Socialist-Revolutionary (SR) party (185). 


Peter Arshinov, barely three years older than Makhno, 
had a political past more colorful than Makhno. Born in 
Katerinoslav, he became an itinerant railway worker, 
Bolschevik party member and contributor to the Bolshevik 
underground paper Molot (The Hammer). Concerned that 
ultimate power should be in the hand of the people, 
Arshinov left the Lenin-led party because he felt that its 
program did not go far enough in this direction. He joined 
the anarchists in 1906, at a time when the Russian govern- 
ment undertook wholesale police action in reprisal against 
the leaders and agitators of the abortive 1905-1906 revolt. 
A dedicated terrorist, Arshinov immediately went into action. 
In December 1906 he and several associates bombed the 
police station of a small industrial town near Katerinoslav, 
killing a number of people. A few months later he as- 
sassinated Vassilenko, a government official at Alexandrovsk.' 
Captured, Arshinov was sentenced to be hanged, but the 
execution was deferred on the grounds of a legal technical- 
ity. The time he gained Arshinov used to plan a spectacular 
escape, which took place when the prisoners attended the 
Easter Sunday service. Arshinov now left Russia, spent 
some time in France, then moved to Austria-Hungary to 
assist in the smuggling of arms and anarchist literature to 
Russia. He was captured and extradited to Russia, but the 
inefficiency and bungling of the Russian courts worked in 
his favor. In 1911 the former death-cell prisoner was sen- 
tenced to a twenty-year term by a Moscow court. Moved 
to Butyrki prison, Arshinov soon met Makhno and spent 
much of his time with him until both were released in 1917. 

To Makhno has been ascribed "a certain gift of spinning 
revolutionary theories, " :; and this also holds true for 
Arshinov. In his book on the Makhno movement, which he 
wrote in 1921 and which is available in Russian, German and 
French, he lashes out against the Bolsheviks, the Men- 
sheviks, the Social-Revolutionaries and other Marxist groups 
because their goal is to transform the capitalist society 
into a state-owned capitalistic social order. As an anarchist 
Arshinov rejected the capitalistic as well as the socialist- 
communist state. Makhno, his Butyrki pupil, in his own 
works echoes the same sentiments, and vows that he 

Max Nomad, Apostles of Revolution, Boston. 1939, 305. 


will work towards the destruction of "the slavery created 
by state and capital." When Arshinov and Makhno left 
Butyrki prison the more sophisticated Arshinov decided to 
remain in Moscow and work with the Federation of An- 
archists there, while Makhno hurried back to his native 
Gulai-Polye. Keenly aware of his "ignorance of positive 
ideas" which would help him "to solve social and political 
problems from the anarchist point of view," Makhno 
consoled himself that "such is the case with nine out of ten" 
anarchists. Furthermore, Makhno was a true son of the 
Ukraine and shared with the Ukrainian peasants a deep 
attachment to his home, his family and homeland, and on 
this love he grafted his primitive anarchy. "Three weeks 
after my liberation," writes Makhno, "I arrived with some 
difficulty at Gulai-Polye, where I was born, where I had 
lived, where I had left behind so many who were dear to 
me and where, I felt certain, I would operate usefully in the 
midst of the great family of peasants." He concludes with 
this vision: 

It is from here, from Gulai-Polye, that this formidable 
revolutionary force of the workers will emerge, in the 
hearts of the working masses, on which, according to 
Bakunin, Kropotkin and others, must depend revolution- 
ary anarchism and which will indicate the means by 
which the old regime of bondage can be destroyed 
and by which a new one can be created in which 
slavery will not exist and in which authority will have 
no place. Liberty, equality and solidarity will then 
be the principles which will guide men and human 
society in their lives and in their struggle for greater 
happiness and prosperity ... it is with this idea that I 
now returned to Gulai-Polye. 1 

In Gulai-Polye Makhno was received as a hero, as one 
"returned from the dead." A procession of anarchist 
friends, followed by poor peasants, "these ignorant but 
valiant anarchists," as Makhno calls them, came to pay 
homage to a man who had spent almost a decade in the 
Moscow deportation prison. "Seeing before me these friends I 

'Makhno, Ruskava Revolutsia na Ukrainia, Introduction. 


felt at ease." Almost immediately, however, he sensed that 
the revolution at the village level had taken a wrong direc- 
tion, a course contrary to his anarchist ideal. A new "Com- 
munal Committee" with representatives from the various 
political parties had been organized before Makhno arrived, 
and it endorsed the new democratic Provisional government 
in Petrograd. Makhno had been left out and he was alarmed. 
He spent the first night, according to his own account, 
telling his anarchist friends that they were not sufficiently 
concerned with "driving out the Communal Committee." 
At first his friends were puzzled and it was not until seven 
o'clock in the morning that he finally persuaded them 
to follow his lead. Without any loss of time Makhno then 
scheduled a village meeting at which he planned to or- 
ganize a body which would challenge the authority of the 
Communal Committee. At the meeting Makhno appealed to 
the peasants' distrust of and prejudices against outside and 
centralized authority. In his book Makhno records the 
essence of his speech, which was that the peasants should 
not concern themselves with the Constituent Assembly and 
political parties, that they had more important and more 
immediate things to do: the preparation for the return 
to the people of all land, factories and workshops, and 
that the time to do so was now. Proudly Makhno records 
that on that day the Union of Peasants of Gulai-Polye 
was founded, of which he was elected president. The day 
was March 29, 1917. With a firm hand Makhno swept aside 
or ignored all other committees and parties and took control 
of Gulai-Polye and the surrounding country. 

According to Makhno's own account he now visited the 
neighboring villages and settlements in order to organize 
his Union of Peasants and assist them in the confiscation 
and distribution of land, factories and workshops. Both his 
collaborators, Voline and Arshinov, testify to Makhno's 
feverish activity. Voline gives the impression that the 
whole process was relatively orderly. Owners of estates, 
factories or shops were required to make inventories of 
their possessions, and these goods were distributed "for the 
purpose of providing the necessities of life for the working 
People.""' In this manner, says Voline, the commune 

"Voline, The Unknown Revolution, 106. 


"Rosa Luxemburg" was formed at Prokovskoie, and cor 
munes Nos. 1, 2 and 3 were formed in the region arounc 
Gulai-Polye. Arshinov records more reservedly that Makhnc 
was "the soul of the peasants' movement which proceedec 
to take over the landowners' lands and goods, and if 
necessary, their lives."" Makhno's account gives greater 
insight into the thinking of the peasants than do the 
writings of Voline and Arshinov, not because of his superior 
analysis of the political and social conditions, but because 
he himself reflected the peasants' point of view. Makhno 
writes that the peasants did not see much difference between 
"Nikolka" (Tsar Nicholas), and Kerensky and Lenin; they 
all wanted to lord it over them and tax them. Half- 
humorously but with an undertone of seriousness the 
peasants regarded them as duraki, fools, says Makhno. 
Moreover, he continues, the peasants regard the city dwellers 
as willing tools of these duraki, interested only in living off 
the sweat of the peasant. In reading Makhno it sometimes 
becomes difficult to distinguish between Makhno the peasant 
and Makhno the revolutionary. 

However, when it comes to the new anarchist social 
order which sprang up under his leadership, Makhno's facts 
intentionally or unwittingly are blurred. Not a single source 
or respondent, aside from the committed Arshinov and 
Voline, is there to testify to Makhno's idealization of his 
achievements. Every commune, writes Makhno, consisted 
of about ten peasant families, or about one hundred toi 
three hundred members, who received the land immediately 
around their village, and also farm implements, both 
requisitioned from the landed gentry. And here they worked 
and sang and tended to their gardens. The communes, 
according to Makhno, were the product of the ideals of 
justice to those who had suffered for their realization. Now 
they triumphed over inequality and were the torch-bearers 
of a new humanity. 

In practice the redistribution of wealth and the organiza- 
tion of the communes were undertaken in a much less 
formal and orderly fashion than the accounts of Makhno, 
Arshinov and Voline indicate. In the initial stages there 

11 Arshinov, Geschichte der Machno-Bewegung, 65. 


may be extenuating reasons for this. It is possible that 
despite appearances Makhno was not as solidly in control 
of Gulai-Polye as he would have liked to be. Since the 
Bolsheviks were also advocating a radical distribution of 
property, Makhno was constantly working under pressure. 
He could never afford to show more respect to property 
and property owners than the Bolsheviks. Furthermore, the 
more responsible revolutionary peasantry who could have 
been expected to act as a stabilizer in Makhno's projected 
anarchist communes, were more inclined to support the 
less radical Social-Revolutionary party. The availability of 
"free goods" also attracted the rabble in large numbers, 
not only from the poorer classes but also members of 
"better" families. These people, unencumbered by either 
anarchist or other ideals, were interested only in outright 
plunder. Finally, quite often Makhno's own altruistic 
motives may quite properly be questioned. These factors 
combined not only to create a chaos and terror at Gulai- 
Polye and the regions controlled by Makhno, but also to 
reduce his ideal of an anarchist republic into a farce. 

While Makhno initially required the landowners, the 
affluent peasants and shopkeepers to draw up inventories 
of their possessions, these prepared lists were later dis- 
regarded by Makhno and his followers. They suspected, 
quite correctly, that property owners would make every 
attempt to hide their movable belongings, or give them 
on loan to poor but friendly peasants and workers. For 
this reason Makhno preferred to make his own "on the 
spot" inventories. He or one of his associates together 
with their following, would take up lodging at the home 
of some prosperous farmer or landowner, live off his 
resources and when these dwindled, that is, when there 
were no more chickens, pigs, and cattle left, they moved 
to the next farm or estate. The place where they were 
quartered would become the base for requisitional opera- 
tions for a radius of many miles. Before leaving the area 
they would "distribute" the remaining assets, such as 
'arm implements, carriages, horses, clothing, bedding, 
ru gs, furniture, harnesses, etc., among themselves, their 
followers and friends and the needy who took the trouble 
to haul it home. 


Those who resisted the requisition of their property 
were beaten, terrorized or shot, but usually the owners 
did not resist. This did not necessarily mean that they 
were not beaten and shot, especially if the requisitioners 
suspected that he had hidden some valuables or money. 
Still, during the period 1917-1918 relatively few executions 
took place. These were sufficiently brutal to intimidate 
and terrorize the landowners and shopkeepers to cooperate 
with the confiscators. One of the first landowners to "host" 
Makhno was a Mennonite farmer, Jacob Neufeld, who 
had a khutor at Ebenfeld, near Gulai-Polye. As a boy 
Makhno had worked here and since the relationship had 
been good, Makhno showed no hostility to Neufeld and 
his family. Indeed, he made every attempt to establish 
a friendly basis and when Neufeld offered him a key for 
his room for greater safety, Makhno refused to take it, 
saying that he felt safe enough among friends. When Makhno 
moved to the next khutor, belonging to another Mennonite 
by the name of Klassen, Makhno invited Klassen to take 
his turn, that is, claim some of his possessions for him- 
self, during the distribution of his own belongings. 7 

As Makhno's success and fame as a requisitioner 
spread, his following increased. Makhno and his men would 
move about on carriages, or tachankas, which they hac 
confiscated from the German farmers. Deserters and 
demobilized men had returned home with their arms. There 
was thus an abundance of various kinds of arms and all 
of Makhno's followers were fully armed. His supporters 
began to speak of Makhno as Batko ("Father"), and the 
core of them began to speak of themselves as "Makhnovtse" 
(followers of Makhno, or Makhno's men). Gulai-Polye began 
to resemble a Tatar camp. Men were dressed in every- 
thing from top hats and riding habits to fur coats and 
patent shoes, items requisitioned from prosperous farmers, 
business or professional people or from Jewish shops. 
"The village (Gulai-Polye) looked as if it had prepared 
for a masquerade," reports one eye-witness. "It was," he 
continued, "like a painting by Repin: exotic, gaudy, un- 
usual. The Makhnovtse wore colorful shirts, wide pants 

r Letter from Mrs. H. Goerz (nee Neufeld) to the author. 


and wide red belts, which reached down to the ground. 
Ail of them were armed to the teeth: besides a sword and 
pistol, everyone had a few hand grenades stuck behind his 
belt ... On the walls (in the houses) were firearms and 
here and there a machine gun." s There were prisoners 
and public interrogations and all night there was music 
and dancing, mixed with the shrieks of gay women. 

Makhno's methods as an equalizer and as an agent of 
vengeance were often excessively brutal, but he and his 
followers rarely molested the poor peasants. On the con- 
trary, as a result of Makhno's operations many of them 
had horses in their barns, flour in their bins and rugs on 
the walls of their rooms. It was equally true that since 
no one with property was safe few peasants and workers 
cared to till their land or work in the factories. Paul 
Avrich illustrates the state of conditions in Russia in general 
at this time by citing W. H. Chamberlain's story where a 
worker was asked "What would you do if you were the 
director of the factory?" To which the worker replied, "I 
would steal a hundred rubles and run away." With the 
conditions that existed in the Ukraine as well as in other 
parts of Russia, Avrich's statement that "cases of pillage 
and theft were not uncommon," appears as bland as the 
report of a British trade union delegation which found 
that workers' control of plants in 1917 had "a very bad 
effect on production. " !l 

While many Ukrainian peasants refused to join Makhno 
or to take part in the expropriation expeditions which were 
so rewarding to the participants, others felt no such 
restraints. Especially among the young many were con- 
vinced that a new dawn of freedom had arrived and that 
they were after all only "expropriating the expropriators." 
Numerous accounts indicate that many of Makhno's sup- 
porters were under twenty years old, some as young as 
fifteen. 111 Still others joined for the sake of adventure. 

"Nedilia, No. 40, October 13, 1935. 

"Cited in Paul Avrich, The Russian Anarchists, Princeton, 1967, 162-163. 

'"Writing of the anarchists' activities during the revolution of 1905, Avrich 
is also impressed by the age factor. He writes, "A striking feature of the 
Chernoe Znamia (the "Black Banner" anarchists) organization was the 
extreme youth of its adherents, nineteen or twenty being the typical age. 
Some of the most active Chernoznamentsy were only fifteen or sixteen. Avrich, 

op. cit., 44. 


"It would be a nice revolution," said one Makhnovite to 
the owner whose clothes-closet he was emptying and whc 
asked him why he had left home, "if we all stayed at 

Events beyond Makhno's control put a temporary stop 
to his pursuits. Lenin and the Bolsheviks took over the 
government of Russia and a little later their armies in- 
vaded the Ukraine. The newly constituted Ukrainian govern- 
ment appealed to Germany for military assistance in the 
preservation of Ukrainian independence. German anc 
Austro-Hungarian troops immediately moved into Ukraine 
and by March 30, 1918 were in control of the country up 
to the Dnieper river. On that day, at three o'clock in the 
afternoon, as a teacher at Nishnia Chortitza recorded, 
units of the retreating Soviet army dynamited the great 
Dnieper bridge at Kichkas. In another few days all the 
Ukraine was cleared of Soviet troops. Behind the Germar 
lines the countryside once more returned to relative peace 
and quiet. Overnight Makhno's following had disintegrated. 
Some of the Makhnovtse had joined the retreating Red 
Army units, others returned to their homes. Makhno himself 
left the Ukraine for Moscow. 


3. The Rada-Skoropadsky Interlude and the Rise of the 

In order to trace the activities of Nestor Makhno it is 
necessary to review the political development in Russia, 
more particularly in the Ukraine. The four years following 
the abdication of Nicholas II belong to the most confused 
and chaotic periods in Russian history. In March, 1917, the 
tsarist autocracy gave way to a moderate coalition govern- 
ment headed by Prince Lvov. A few months later the liberal 
but weak administration of Lvov was replaced by a govern- 
ment under the more vigorous Alexander Kerensky. On 
November 7, 1917, the Bolshevik party, under Lenin's 
relentless leadership, staged a coup, took over the govern- 
ment from Kerensky, and began to consolidate and extend 
its power throughout the country. While these political shifts 
took. place in Petrograd and Moscow, their immediate ef- 
fects did not extend to the peripheries of the Russian empire. 
Different regions, especially those with non-Russian popu- 
lations, from the Baltic to the Caucasus, saw the time 
opportune either to liberate themselves from Russian control 
or to gain greater political autonomy. 

Such was the case with the Ukraine. An All-Ukrainian 
rada, or council, convened at Kiev as early as March, 1917, 
and elected the respected historian, Professor Michael 
Hrushevsky, as president. A rada executive was formed, 
headed by the socialist V. Vinnichenko. In its first procla- 
mation the rada informed Moscow that while its objective 
was not a complete break with Russia, it considered the 
Ukraine "free". The government of Prince Lvov, largely 
because it was too weak to do otherwise, recognized the 
authority of the rada and its executive. Prince Lvov's suc- 
cessor, Kerensky, however, was not prepared to extend 
recognition, and in an emotional speech ("And why, my 
Mother, dost thou kiss me? Who gave thee thirty pieces of 


silver?") he implied that the Ukrainian national aspirations 
had German backing and were treasonous. 1 The strained 
relations between Moscow and Kiev reached a breaking 
point once Lenin took over the government. Petrograd spoke 
of the rada and its executive as "a government by the 
traitors to socialism" (Stalin), 2 and as a bourgeois attempt 
to keep out the Bolsheviks. The immediate cause for the 
rift between Kiev and Petrograd was the former's refusal 
to permit Soviet troops to cross its territory in order to 
strike at General Kaledin's forces at the Don River. More- 
over, Petrograd was aware that the British and French 
were negotiating to divide between themselves all of 
southern Russia and the Caucasus region. The secret agree- 
ment, the negotiators of which were Lord Milner, on 
behalf of the British government, and Clemenceau, was not 
signed until December 23, 1917. By its terms the British 
sphere encompassed "the Cossack territories, the territory 
of the Caucasus, Armenia, Georgia, Kurdistan," and the 
French zone included "Bessarabia, the Ukraine, the Krimea." 
It was partly on the basis of this knowledge that Lenin 
despatched an ultimatum to Kiev, which the latter, how- 
ever, felt it could not meet. 

The Soviet government thereupon took steps to com- 
pel the Ukraine to accept its terms. In a parallel to the 
1968 Czech crisis, Moscow ordered a small Ukrainian party 
nucleus, whose very existence had hardly been known in 
Ukraine, to convene a Ukrainian soviet in Kharkov, and that 
"mutual" military units take action to reunite the Ukraine 
with Russia. The Ukrainian government saw no alternative 
but to appeal to Germany, with which country Petrograd 
was conducting peace negotiations. The Kiev government 
informed the German representatives at Brest-Litovsk that 
Moscow was not empowered to negotiate on behalf of Ukraine. 
Furthermore, the Ukrainian government would abide by 
the terms of the treaty only if it found them acceptable. 
The German officials, who had been stalled in their nego- 
tiations with the Bolshevik representatives, were not dis- 

1 Cf. O. S. Pidhainy, The Formation of the Ukrainian Republic, Toronto, 1966, 

-Pravda, No. 215 (1917), cited in Ukraine: A Concise Encyclopedia, Toronto, 

1963, Vol. 1. 736. 


pleased to see the increased tensions and rifts develop within 
the Russian empire. 

Meanwhile the Bolshevik pressure on Ukraine continued. 
Between December 26, 1917, and early February, 1918, 
Soviet forces captured Kharkov, Katerinoslav, Alexandrovsk 
(Zaporozhye) and Kiev. In desperation a Ukrainian delega- 
tion signed a peace treaty with the Central Powers (Ger- 
many, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey) on February 
9, almost a month before the Moscow government took the 
same step. By the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk the Central 
Powers recognized the independence of Ukraine, and prom- 
ised that country military aid against outside aggression. In 
turn Ukraine pledged to supply the Central Powers with grain 
and raw materials.- 

The ruthless Bolshevik occupation of Kiev, where several 
thousand hostages were executed, served partly to intimidate 
the Ukrainian government, which had fled to Zhitomir, 
and partly to attract to the Red Army, units of the new but 
dispirited Ukrainian army. Both objectives were thus 
achieved, but the result was not the submission but rather 
the reorganization of the Ukrainian government. The left- 
wing socialist Vinnichenko was replaced as prime minister 
by Holubovich, who now invited Ludendorff to assist the 
Ukrainian National Republic in clearing its land of the 
Bolshevik invaders. Despite the German manpower short- 
age, for Germany faced increased pressure on its Western 
front through the American entry into the war, the German 
government readily accepted the invitation, largely to 
insure stable conditions within Ukraine, which in turn would 
permit the uninterrupted flow of supplies westwards. 

The occupation of Ukraine by German and Austro- 
Hungarian forces was carried out very smoothly. On March 
3, 1918, Chancellor Hertling could send friendly greetings 
to Premier Holubovich on the occasion of his government's 

: The full text of the Peace of Brest-Litovsk between the Ukraine and the 
Central Powers appeared in the Reichsgesetzblatt, No. 107 (1918). The text 
available to me was in Stefan Horak, "Der Brest-Litowsker Friede zwischen 
der Ukraine und den Mittelmachten vom 9. Februar 1918 in seinen Aus- 
wirkungen auf die politische Entwicklung der Ukraine." Unpublished Ph.D. 
diss., University of Erlangen, 1949, 163-166. Horak also has the text of the 
agreement of March 25, 1918, between Germany and Austria-Hungary for the 
regions to be occupied by their respective forces. The document was first 
published by D. Doroshenko, Istoria Ukraina, II. 


return to Kiev. Nevertheless, difficulties arose almost im- 
mediately. A state of disorganization and lawlessness hac 
seriously crippled the new country's industries, and the gov- 
ernment was too weak to establish order. Moreover, the 
social legislation passed by the rada included the confisca- 
tion of most land and provided for state control of industry 
in general. Germany and Austria-Hungary felt that the 
hasty socialization would still further impair the country's 
production, especially in the area of agriculture where 
much of the land lay idle as a consequence of land 
redistribution. Many of the new owners lacked the 
machinery, horse-power and seed-grain to work and seec 
the land. On April 6, the German commander-in-chief, Fielc 
Marshal von Eichhorn, issued an order which assured the 
peasants and landowners that whoever seeded a crop, 
should also harvest it. On the other hand, if a peasant 
was unable to seed all the new land in his possession, then 
the former owner was required to seed it and share the 
crop with the peasant to whom the land had been 
allocated. 1 

While Germany assisted the Ukrainian government's 
attempt to restore order, the German military administra- 
tion soon was looked upon with favor by the middle and 
upper classes, who opposed the socialist policies of their 
government. Their political arm, the Ukrainian Democratic 
Peasant party, with German approval, held a convention 
towards the end of April 1918, and elected General Paul 
Skoropadsky as hetman. By a coup Hetman Skoropadsky 
took over the government and became head of state. He 
dissolved the rada, organized a paramilitary police tc 
provide greater authority for his government, and at the 
same time pursued a policy of close collaboration with 
Germany. His personal relations with Emperor William II 
were excellent. Though he was bearer of a name which 
had a proud tradition in Ukraine and was personally highly 
regarded, Hetman Skoropadsky did not succeed in attract- 
ing popular support for his government. 

During the German occupation the Skoropadsky govern- 
ment, in cooperation with German authorities, required 

'Horak, op. cit., 59. 


all those who had participated in the confiscation of prop- 
erty to make immediate restitution. In many instances 
former expropriators returned property even before request- 
ed to do so, especially if they suspected that the former own- 
ers knew where the property or goods had gone. In other 
cases the identification of the actual expropriators was more 
difficult. All those who had been quiet for so long, who 
had often feared for their lives, "the non-revolutionary 
element", in the words of the Ukrainian historian Stefan 
Horak, now became active supporters of law and order. 
Viewing the development from the anarchist position, 
Arshinov agrees: "The occupation of the Ukraine by the 
Austro-Germans was accompanied by a fierce reaction on 
the part of the gentry." 

There were instances where landowners and peasants 
accompanied military units in order to identify goods and 
culprits, and sometimes even insisted on punishment for 
the latter, who on occasion were publicly flogged. But there 
were also instances where landowners and peasants asked 
the Ukrainian National Guard and the German military 
to deal leniently with expropriators. Still, since a large seg- 
ment of the peasantry had taken part in the expropria- 
tions, there was resentment against repossession and there 
were outbreaks of violence. These increased as the German 
military position in the West weakened. Sometimes the 
peasants banded together, and the manner in which they 
operated is described by the Makhnovite Arshinov: 

Then the peasants persevering in their revolt, organized 
as guerrillas and started hedge warfare. As if by order 
of invisible organizations, they formed in a number of 
places, almost simultaneously, a multitude of partisan 
detachments, acting militarily and always by surprise- 
against the nobles, their guards and the representa- 
tives of power. As a rule, these detachments consisting 
of twenty, fifty or a hundred well armed horsemen, would 
appear suddenly where they were least expected, attack 
a nobleman or the (Hetman's) National Guard, massacre 
all the enemies of the peasants and disappear as quickly 
as they had come. Every lord who persecuted the 
peasants, and all his faithful servants, were noted by the 


partisans and were in continual danger of being liqui- 
dated. Every guard, every German officer was condemned 
to almost certain death. These exploits, occurring daily 
in all parts of the country, cut out the heart of the agrarian 
counter-revolution, undermined it, and prepared the 
way for the triumph of the peasants."' 

Arshinov's somewhat flamboyant account exaggerates 
the effectiveness of partisan operations, and German records 
substantiate Trotsky when he writes that the partisans 
appeared "invincible" only to themselves, but that as soon 
as the "improvised detachments came up against regular, 
undemoralized enemy units, their own total ineffectiveness 
was immediately shown up." Trotsky does not discount that 
"there were heroic elements" among the Makhnovites and 
the other partisans, but concludes that "they also numbered 
not a few self-seekers, marauders and scoundrels."" 

With the German withdrawal and the collapse of the 
Skoropadsky regime, when all government authority broke 
down, the activities of the partisans were to reach their 
peak. At first they directed their reprisals and executions 
primarily at the Skoropadsky supporters and collaborators, 
but the reprisals soon developed into an almost indiscriminate 
attack on the whole middle class of peasants and shop- 

By July 1918, Makhno had once more returned to 
Ukraine. Since the German occupation he had spent much 
of his time in Moscow, where he had met Kropotkin, Sverdlov 
and Lenin. The reflective Kropotkin, who dreamed of a 
vague peaceful-violent revolution, was somewhat taken 
aback when confronted by the impulsive Makhno, who was 
prepared to translate the anarchist ideals into practice. 
Lenin recognized the born partisan in Makhno, flattered 
him, praised the disruptive work of the anarchists, and 
urged Makhno to carry on the struggle in the Ukraine (which 
the Communists did not control at this time). 7 Through 
Lenin's intervention Makhno received a forged passport 


"'Arshinov, quoted by Voline, The Unknown Revolution, 82. 

"Jan M. Meijer, ed., The Trotsky Papers 1917-1922, The Hague, 1964, Vol 

389-391 . 
7 Cf. Avrich, The Russian Anarchists, 210-211; and David Footman, Civil War 

in Russia, London, 1961 , 253-256. 



rnade out to "Ivan Jakovlevich Shepelye, teacher and 
officer," which permitted him to return to the Ukraine. 
The occupation "teacher" inserted in the forged passport 
w as most likely responsible for the numerous accounts 
which erroneously list Makhno as a former teacher. The 
information for the passport was provided by Makhno 
himself. He gave as his address: Mateyevo-Kurganskoi 
Volost, Taganrogskogo okruga, Ekaterinoslavskii Gubernii. 

On the way from Russia to the Ukraine Makhno, who 
had with him a suitcase full of anarchist literature, was 
arrested by a German guard. Fortunately for Makhno a 
wealthy Jew from Gulai-Polye intervened, and he was 
released. s Makhno now made his way to Gulai-Polye, 
and from there to Dibrovka,, about 50 versts away. Dibrovka, 
also known as Viliki-Michaelovka, was a large Ukrainian 
village with a population of about 10,000. Here a native 
peasant by the name of Fedor Tchus, who served in the 
navy during the war, had organized a band of partisans 
who would meet in the Dibrovka Forest, the largest forest 
in the Ekaterinoslav province. Tchus, according to his 
biographer, had developed his own political philosophy. 
His theory was that all landowners held their property under 
tsarist laws; since the tsar had abdicated, all owners had 
now forfeited their rights to the land. Tchus was as great 
a hero in Dibrovka as Makhno was in Gulai-Polye. 
Makhno and Tchus now joined forces. 

Word reached the landowners and kulak farmers that 
Makhno and Tchus had made common cause. Alarmed, 
they organized a home defense guard and together with 
Austro-German detachments they carefully encircled the 
Dibrovka area. Makhno and Tchus, together with thirty of 
their followers, seemed hopelessly trapped. With a few 
companions Makhno stole into the village and found that 
a unit of Austrians and troops of the Ukrainian militia 
had pitched their camp on the market square. They re- 
turned and Makhno disclosed his plan of action. Tchus and 
six or seven men would make a flank attack on the square, 
while he and the rest would make a frontal attack on it. 
They all knew that it was a desperate gamble, but they 

s Arshinov, Geschichte der Machno-Bewegung , 66. 


had no alternative. At the same time the audacity 
Makhno's plan, his boldness and decisiveness left a dee| 
impression on the men. When he closed with an emotion; 
appeal to die fighting, Tchus greeted him as their batko, 

their "Father". 9 

The surprise attack was successful. The unsuspectinj 
Austrians and Ukrainian home guard were overwhelmei 
and massacred, and their weapons, machine guns an< 
ammunition were distributed among the friends and followers 
of Makhno and Tchus, who were feted as heroes. It was or 
this occasion and from this time on, says Arshinov, thai 
Makhno was recognized unanimously as the batko of all 
the Ukrainian revolutionary insurgents. Two days later, 
on October 5, German and Austrian troops, together witr 
Ukrainian guards, attacked Dibrovka, which was practical!; 
wiped out by an intense artillery fire before it was occupied. 
But Makhno, and presumably also Tchus, who was to play 
an important role in the ranks of the Insurgent Army, had 
fled. Makhno turned up in Gulai-Polye, which he occupied. 

Meanwhile, in November 1918, the Germans signed an 
armistice in the West, and one condition imposed on them 
and their allies was their withdrawal from all occupied 
countries. When the German and Austro-Hungarian forces 
in the Ukraine laid down their arms, Hetman Skoropadsky's 
position deteriorated very rapidly. The Bolshevik govern- 
ment, aware of its opportunity, dispatched two armies to 
occupy the Ukraine. The Hetman's political opponents at 
home felt only a government with wide popular support could 
hope to stop the Communist invasion. In a short campaign 
they forced Skoropadsky'" to relinquish his position, and 
a "Directorate" of five took over the government. Its 
strong man was a young lawyer, Simeon Petlura, who was 
born in the same year (1879) as his great antagonists, 
Trotsky and Stalin. 

Petlura attempted desperately to build an army stroni 
enough to withstand the Communist attack. He failed, foi 
again the Soviet armies occupied Kharkov, and except foi 

"Arshinov, Geschichte der Machno-Bewegung, 73. 

'"Hetman Paul Skoropadsky (1873-1945) later made his home in Berlin. Wi 
the approach of the Red Army, in 1945, he attempted to leave the city b' 
train. The train was subjected to an American air attack and Skoropadsk; 
was severely wounded. He died three days later. 


trie guerrilla activities of organized bands like those headed 
by Makhno and Grigoriev, they met little resistance from 
the war-weary population. The resistance developed from 
the White armies, composed of the combined forces of the 
Don Army under Krasnov and Denikin's Volunteer Army, 
and timidly supported by the French and British. Since neither 
the Red nor the White armies were in a position to take 
over and control effectively the Ukraine, the Petlura gov- 
ernment continued to operate in and around Kiev, while 
Makhno controlled the region around Gulai-Polye. 


4. The Insurgent Army, Its Membership and Operations 
the Civilian Sector 

In the initial stages, as we have seen, there was nc 
regular Insurgent Army with a ready organization to direct 
its operations. It was a force, loosely banded around the 
person of Makhno, which, by its success attracted more 
and more recruits. Sometimes its ranks were also swellec 
by minor batkos, leaders of their own small bands whc 
joined the Insurgents for greater protection and opportunities. 
The ideological orientation of those who joined generally die 
not differ very much from the position of Makhno. They toe 
endorsed a primitive anarchy, and were willing agents of 
confiscation and distribution. The objects of their anger 
were not only the landowners and better situated peasants, 
but also the shopkeepers, town dwellers in general and 
the intellectuals. The anti-intellectual prejudice was not 
confined to Ukraine. Avrich points out that Burevestnik, 
organ of the Moscow anarchists, carried the following 
headline on one occasion: "Uneducated ones! Destroy 
that loathsome culture which divides men into 'ignorant' 
and 'learned'. They are keeping you in the dark. They have 
put out your eyes. In this darkness of the night of culture, 
they have robbed you." 1 And a writer in a Ukrainiar 
paper relates how the Makhnovtse had removed every iter 
in his home except the library on the shelf. When he 
bitterly reminded them that they had forgotten to take 
the books, one of them turned to him and said, "Who dc 
you think we are, counter-revolutionaries?" 

Thus Makhno had no difficulty either in attracting 
recruits or in selecting enemies. A few examples, the 
story of an ordinary deserter, the effect of the alignment 
of the Ukrainian nationalists with the occupation powers, 

'Avrich, The Russian Anarchists, 176. 


and the operations of a colorful local batko may serve to 
illustrate the conditions and social climate in Ukraine 
which provided the ground for Makhno's success. 

The great motor and accelerator for unrest was the 
war. While the peasant and working population had been 
extremely restive even before the war, it was the war itself 
which completely disintegrated not only the army but also 
the political and social fabric of the country. General 
Golovine, chief of staff of the Russian armies on the 
Rumanian front, states that more than 2,000,000 men left 
the Russian armed forces in 1917 in a "spontaneous" 
demobilization. This was before Russia signed a peace treaty 
with Germany. These men drifted home or roamed the 
countryside, ill-fed, ill-clothed, fully armed but insecure 
since they could be caught, in which case they were 
either shot or sent back to the front. Sometimes they 
banded together temporarily for greater safety. 

The story of one such deserter who became a partisan 
of Makhno is told by Ivan Topolye:- 

On August 7, 1915, the mobilization order included all 
those born in 1896. Since I was born on June 26 of that 
year, I was sucked into the meat-grinder. I had my own 
ideas, and when the recruits took the loyalty oath, I added 
under my breath that I would not keep it. Three days in 
the army was enough for me, and I left for home. But 
my father felt that I should submit to God's will, and so 
I returned to my unit, knowing that I would get a jail 
sentence. Instead a court-martial sent me to the front, 
with the provision that I should serve the prison term 

after the war. 

I was sent to Czernovitz (Rumania), was wounded in both 
legs and became a prisoner of war. Here we often 
discussed the conditions at home, that we had too little 
land, that the Russian landowners looked down on us 
(as Ukrainians), calling us derisively khokhols, that the 
church always sided with the Russians and the nobility. 
In time I escaped and made my way home. Though 
hostilities had ceased, I was afraid that I would be 

'The name is an alias, but the real name and address are known to the 
writer. The story is based on fifteen pages of notes made by the author. 


captured and returned to Austria-Hungary. I slept under 
bridges and caught rides on trains, and when I reachec 
home, unshaven and in rags, even my mother did not 
recognize me. 

As a patrimony my father had bought for me a small 
farm. Meanwhile the Civil War had broken out. When 
Petlura mobilized the men in our district, I fled; wher 
the Whites mobilized me, I deserted; when the Bolsheviks 
occupied the area, I hid in the fields or in the forest 
Since I was nowhere safe any longer I joined roving 
bands. In succession I was with Matvienko, Feodosy 
Semenka, Litchko and the anarchist Bro. These groups 
never asked whether I was a deserter or not. In this 
way I finally joined Makhno. At this time he was hard- 
pressed by the Bolsheviks, and I did not have an im- 
mediate opportunity to desert him. 
I had heard of Makhno before. When I returned as 
prisoner of war and left the Losovaya railway station tc 
walk to my home village of Weliki-Butchky I met 
harmonica player who played for the Makhnovites at 
their drinking bouts. Makhno and his band had their 
camp near the station Yurevka, exacted contributions 
from the landowners and spent their time in revellinc 
with good food, plenty of samogon (vodka) and women. 
The harmonica player said that if I went to Makhno': 
camp I would get clothes, shoes and a girl. 
Another countryman, Ivan Bloshchenko, who lived ir 
pne village of Bogdanovka between Zaporozhye anc 
Sinelnikovo, a region where there were many wealthy 
German farmers, told me that Makhno spent much 
his time in that area. He recruited volunteers and placec 
contributions on the rich and distributed the money 
among the poor. One day a small troop of Whites oc- 
cupied Bogdanovka before Makhno had time to escape 
or organize his men, who were scattered in the village 
Makhno, who stayed in the home of the Bloshchenkos 
quickly slipped into a woman's dress, tied a scarf over 
his head as if he had a toothache, and began scourinc 
the cooking pots. When three White guards entered the 
kitchen and inquired of Bloshchenko's wife whether she 
had seen any Makhnovtse, she replied that there had beer 


several tachankas of them, but that they had left. The 
three men left, having hardly looked at Makhno who was 
busy with the pots and the fire. No sooner had they left 
when Makhno organized his men and pursued the 
soldiers, killed most of them and returned to the village 
with new arms and munitions. 

Makhno was a very clever operator and one felt safe 
with him. Many deserters who had committed offenses in 
the Red or White armies joined Makhno, where they 
could plunder and rob at will. Petlura officers would 
join Makhno for their own protection. 
,My own village was occupied by the Makhnovtse four 
times, but I stayed about two or three kilometers away 
and watched some of the farms go up in smoke. As soon 
as it was safe for me I deserted the ranks of the 
Insurgent army. From 1921 to 1922 I lived in the 
Pozharnaya Ulitsa 43, in Katerinoslav. 

Moreover, the German, Austrian and Magyar occupa- 
tion forces often found it difficult to distinguish between 
organized partisan and ordinary peasants, and their swift 
and often indiscriminate reprisals against guerilla attacks 
served to drive many peasants into the ranks of partisan 
bands. Dr. Paul Dubas relates one such incident which 
stirred the latent hostility of the peasants. Since it occurred 
in the general Gulai-Polye region it served to strengthen 
Makhno, in that many peasants began to see in him not 
the anarchist, but the resistance leader. 

An Austrian regiment, writes Dubas, :: consisting most- 
ly of Poles and some Ukrainians and commanded by a 
Czech, and two Ukrainian companies were transferred 
from Odessa to Krivoi Rog, where the countryside was 
thick with Insurgents. The nascent Ukrainian national 
spirit, reports Dubas, was evident everywhere. He (Dubas) 
and his sotnia (company of one hundred) were quartered 
in a girls' high school. The Hetman government had in- 
troduced Ukrainian as the language of instruction, and 
the school was decorated with Ukrainian motifs, and there 
were Ukrainian dances and concerts. 

Paul Dubas, "Z rayoni Makhna," (From Makhno's District), Chervona Kalina, 
No. 3, 1932. 


One night, continues Dubas, they received order t 
move to the Gulai-Polye area where a "Bolshevik band' 
had attacked the village of Vladimirovka, butchered a fe 
villagers and massacred eighty Magyars and their captain 
"We surrounded Vladimirovka, and all males were re 
quired to gather at one farmyard, altogether about eighty 
men." Dubas, himself a Ukrainian, got the impression 
that none of the villagers had participated in the massacre 
and that the partisans most likely had not been Bolsheviks 
.but Makhnovtse. But the commander's interrogation was 
so crude, according to Dubas, that the villagers were 
hostile, whereupon about half of the men were stood u 
against a wall and executed. 

Dubas felt that this course drove the peasants in th 
area to support Makhno. Later he spent some time in 
Gulai-Polye and was told by an old peasant, "May he 
perish, that Makhno. He brings us a lot of distress anc 
misery, but on the other hand he protects us from the 
marauding rabble and Bolsheviks." 

Makhno in turn was more astute in his dealings with the 
peasants, especially with prisoners, and as a result gainec 
many of them as recruits. F. Meleshko, who was not a 
partisan of Makhno but knew Makhno's wife before she 
married, together with his wife visited the Makhnos at 
Gulai-Polye. At this time the Insurgents had about eighty 
Bolshevik prisoners, and Makhno took his visitor to see 
them. Meleshko describes what he saw: 1 

From the church we went to the school, where the 
prisoners were kept. Makhno assured us that if there were 
some prominent Bolsheviks among them, or some of 
those who had threatened to shoot us at the Pomishna 
station, he would have them immediately beheaded, if 
that were our wish. The prisoners were assembled in a 
large room. Most of them were Moscovite rabble and in 
rags. There were no prominent Bolsheviks among them. 
They excused themselves, they too hated the Communist: 
but they had been mobilized. Under the circumstances 
this confession was not surprising. Then Batko Makhno 
spoke to them. It was an emotional speech, but Makhno 

1 F. Meleshko, "Nestor Makhno ta yoho anarkhia." Chervona Kalina, No. 1, ; 


was no great orator. He spoke largely about himself, 
his aims, and about the invincible Makhnovshchina, 
The speech in tone and content demonstrated that 
Makhno could be both, cruel and humane. He closed 
with these words: "I am giving you your freedom. Your 
duty is to report everywhere what Makhno stands and 
fights for, and that is all (i tolki)." 

The gloomy faces of the prisoners lit up, says Meleshko, 
and some immediately volunteered that they would never 
again fight against Makhno. 

Makhno was only one of the many chieftains who 
emerged during these times of troubles. Almost every 
larger village or volost (county) had its ataman or batko, 
and to the surprise of the villagers he was often a man 
they would have least expected to rise to such prominence. 
Sometimes women took over as leaders. One of them, 
Marusja Nikiforova, at Pologi, supplied her fellow anarchist 
Makhno with weapons when he returned to Gulai-Polye. 
Though Makhno named one of his commando units in her 
honor "Marusja","' Marusja Nikiforova never joined his 
ranks. But other local leaders, together with their following, 
joined Makhno and thereby greatly extended the latter's 
field of activity. Two such leaders of considerable promi- 
nence were Batko Pravda, who "took over" the Krasnopol 
volost where the settlers were German (Mennonite) 
farmers, and Batko Noumenko, who presided at a neighbor- 
ing volost. The following account of Batko Pravda's activities 
was given by H. B. Wiens,' ; a native of the Krasnopol 

In 1917 I was elected chairman of the village council, 
and one of my duties was to collect the grain from the 

At different times Makhno, who generally used "Kerensky" money, printed 
his own verses on it. One such rubber stamp verse read: 
Marusja, don't be sad, 
With Makhno money can be had. 
The "Marusja" reference was to his Marusa brigade and not to Marusja 
"Mr. Wiens, an octogenarian, now lives in Leamington, Ontario, Canada. 
He sent me this account together with a letter, dated November 7. 1963. 
Written in German, the manuscript consists of twelve handwritten pages. The 
Krasnopol volost, also known as Schonfeld. was settled exclusively by 
German Mennonite farmers who had come to Ukraine in the early 19th 


farmers and have it delivered to the city. Every secon 
week I would have to go to a bank at Alexandrovs 
(Zaporozhye), get the payment in cash for the grain an 
distribute the money among the producers. This alway: 
involved large sums of monies, and when it became in 
creasingly unsafe to travel because of the general unres 
I was informed to collect the money from a bank i 
Gulai-Polye, which was only thirty versts (twenty miles 

When I made my first trip to Gulai-Polye the manage 
of the bank told me that I could not get the mon& 
without permission from Makhno, who had his office in th 
volost (county) building. I was surprised, for I did no 
know that the ex-convict Makhno, who had robbed a ban 
before the war, was now in charge of the Gulai-Poly 
volost. I went to the building as directed, but was stoppe 
at the door and asked whom I wished to see. I said tha 
I wanted to see Makhno, and the man took me inside. W 
had some difficulty pushing through the crowded rooms, fo 
the whole building was full of people. 

Then I was before Makhno, a thin man with piercing 
eyes, sitting on a chair. He asked abruptly, "What do you 
want?" I replied that I came from the Krasnopol volost and 
required his permission to get money from the bank for 
the grain we had delivered. He answered that he allowed 
no one to withdraw money from the bank. 

The whole interview was carried on under conditions 
and an atmosphere that I was happy to get out. I reached 
home and we thanked God that I had returned safely. 
In the following weeks our village undertook the redis- 
tribution of land, 7 but rumors circulated that this would 
not be enough, and that we should be prepared to organize 
into communas (collectives). Then followed the first night 
raids on farm homes, and the Balzer family of three people 
was massacred on one such raid. People left their farm 
homes and moved to the villages. 

By September (1918) waves of marauding bands swept 
over the volost, plundering and killing at will. By this 
time the power of the central government had completely 

Presumably in response to a government directive. 

disappeared. It was in late November that Batko Pravda s 
appeared at our place with a number of fully armed 
followers on carriages. They drove on the yard screaming 
and yelling. I was ordered to appear in the living room 
and Batko Pravda said he wanted immediately all my 
money or they would shoot me. He stuck the barrel of a 
gun in my mouth, another of his cronies jabbed a gun in 
my back and a third one fired a shot only inches away 
from my face. In the adjacent room my wife, Agatha, 
received the same treatment. I gave them all the money I 
had in the house and in my pocket. They also took my 
pocket knife, my watch and the rings from my fingers. 

Meanwhile others of the band had begun loading the 
carriages with everything that could be moved. We were 
ordered to supply bags for the fur coats and the clothes. 
Their carriages could not hold all the plunder, and we were 
required to load our wagon and take what was left to 
Lubimovka, Batko Pravda's home village. The inhabitants 
of Lubimovka numbered about one hundred families, living 
in small homes and in poverty. Since their 2 to 15 
dessiatines (1 dess. = 2.7 acres) of land per family was 
not enough to make a living, many of them went as 

In the following days most landowners and farmers 
were to experience similar raids. On November 29 Batko 
Pravda moved to Schonfeld, together with a large following, 
and established himself in the home of John Warkentin. 
The house was vacant as Warkentin and his family had 
fled to the Molotschnaya. 

The Warkentin home was only a quarter of a mile 
away from us and many of Pravda's "band were also 

"Simeon Pravda was a native of the village of Lubimovka. A former miner, 
he had lost his legs in a train accident. He had two crude wooden stumps, and 
when he walked he supported himself with two canes. Unable to work he was 
forced to make his living as a beggar, travelling with his mother on a cart 
from village to village. In this way he came to know most farmers for miles 
around Lubimovka. (Letter from G. Toews, dated St. Catharines, Ontario. 
April 2, 1968.) After his rise to power Batko Pravda, in raiding drug stores, 
discovered the soothing effects of morphine and became addicted to it. One of 
his first inquiries, whenever he reached a new place, would be, "Where is 
your drug store?" Cf. J. G. Rempel, Mein Heimatdorf Nieder-Chortitza, pp. 
58-59. Rempel was the chairman of the village council (soviet) in Nisnnia- 
Chortitza, a village in the Chortitza volost, raided and occupied by both, 
Batko Pravda and Batko Makhno. 


quartered in our home. My wife was busy from morninc 
to night cooking and baking for them, but thank God she 
was not molested. On some days I would be ordered away 
from the place, for they said they could not tolerate the 
sight of a "bourgeois," at other times I would be required 
to eat and drink with them. They always had great 
quantities of samogon (home-brewed whisky) with them. 

About a week later we were assigned four 14 to 15 year 
old boys, who were the drivers for the Pravda band, and 
we were required to obey their order. At first they 
were often quite demanding, and when they were dis- 
satisfied they complained to Batko Pravda, which always 
had serious consequences. We were consistently friendly 
to them, and after a while their attitude changed and they 
began to call me "papasha" (Little Father), and my wife 
"mamasha" (Little Mother). 

The same transformation took place in Batko Pravda. 
After he had been in Schonfeld for a few weeks he sent 
word to me why I did not visit him, or did I think that 
he was not good enough for me. I immediately paid him 
a visit, and over the months I visited him regularly once 
a week. At first I made the visits not without trepidations, 
as there were these 14-16 year old boys running around 
with loaded guns, dressed in the sombre (Mennonite) 
Sunday coats, which were much too big for them. One of 
these boys was placed as a sentry at the farm-gate where 
the Batko stayed, and another stood guard at the door of 
the house. Every time I would have to state the purpose 
of my visit. Sometimes they would let me pass, at other 
times they would first get permission from Pravda before 
I was permitted to enter. 

Inside I would be seated and Pravda would enumerate 
his achievements during the week and outline his plans 
for the future. Once I asked him why they took the lives 
of so many innocent people, and he said it was true that many 
innocent people were killed, but much of it was done without 
his knowledge. 

Batko Pravda's quarters also housed his staff, and some 
days they would send out orders to the men quartered in 
the village. These would then harness the horses for three 
or four carriages. About four men would get on each 



carriage, they would also get an escort of a few riders, 
a ll fully armed, and would leave the village. We then knew 
that they were out on another raid. 

Later word would reach us from some village or 
khutor of who had been killed. If they were people we knew, 
or relatives, Batko Pravda, because of our good relationship, 
would permit us to attend the funeral. Sometimes as a 
special favor he would provide for us an armed escort to 
protect us from other marauding gangs. This went on for 
months. On several occasions Russian landowners were 
brought to the village and were executed or cut down and 
chopped to pieces. I remember how in one case four 
Russian landowners were shot and mutilated in the barn of 
the homestead where the staff was quartered. When their 
wives came, sobbing and weeping, they were told to pick 
out their husbands and take them home. 

On New Year's Eve I had gone to bed early when word 
reached me shortly before twelve that I and my neighbors 
were to await New Year with Batko Pravda. Guards had 
been placed every fifty paces from our home to the house 
where Pravda was staying. As I walked along the street 
one guard would shout to the next, "Wiens is coming!" 
At the door I was received courteously, and we sat down 
around a table. Samogon was again served, though I for 
my part protested that I was under doctor's order which 
restricted my drinking. At 12 o'clock we went outside and 
everybody who had a gun began shooting. H 

On January 21 (1919) the whole village was on the 
move as Pravda's band prepared to leave. Rumor had it 
that the home guard of the neighboring volosts 1 " would 
come to free the Krasnopol (Schonfeld) volost. In the en- 
gagement, which took place about thirty versts away, 
the home guard was beaten. The following nights hundreds 
of carriages and wagons, carrying partisans, plunder and 
women, returned and were once more quartered in the 
villages of our volost. 

" In many European countries this is a traditional custom at New Year's 

'"The Selbstschutz was organized by the volosts of Prischib, Halbstadt and 
Gnadenfeld. See: Gerhard Toews, "Schonfeld, Werde- und Opfergang einer 
deutschen Siedlung in der Ukraine," Der Bote. The last installment of the 
series carries a list of all the names of people executed in the Schonfeld volost. 
Ibid., December 28, 1965. 



On January 26 (1919) we had a wedding in our village 
A young Mennonite married a non-Mennonite girl," whc 
was working as a cook in Pravda's quarters. With the 
permission of Batko Pravda they could have a church 
wedding, and the marriage ceremony was performed by 
my father-in-law, Reverend Jakob Duck. Batko Pravda alsc 
came for the service and when a few partisans arrivec 
fully armed, Pravda ordered them to leave their weapor 
at the church entrance. I was the Vors'anger'-, and toe 
my place near the pulpit. Suddenly, in a loud voice anc 
without warning, Pravda interrupted the service anc 
ordered me to take the place next to him. 

In the evening there was a wedding party and 
program at which our village teacher, G. Derksen, with the 
permission of the Batko addressed the guests. All at one 
Derksen was called out and was informed that his son he 
been arrested. He had been a clerk in his uncle's store, ar 
he was charged with cheating the customers. The partisans 
had also searched the school and found a documer 
which I had signed in my capacity as chairman of the 
village soviet. I was arrested and told that I had 
authority to sign any documents, and my protests that th 
paper was signed before the partisans occupied the village 
were of no avail. A third party arrested at this time we 
an old man, D. Diick, the secretary of the volost. Duck 
was accused of favoring the rich farmers in his dealings 
with the villagers. 

All of us were required to appear before Batko Pravdc 
and Batko Noumenko, who had come to take us to the 
neighboring volost where he was in charge. I pleaded with 
Pravda to permit me to stay in my home village, and he 
finally agreed that my transfer should be deferred until th( 
next day. The other two were taken under heavy guard tc 
the neighboring village and interrogated. Both received ver 
severe beatings, and young Derksen was taken to a strav 
stack, cut down and mutilated until he was dead. Duch 
survived, dragged himself away but lost consciousness 

"Anna Klein. Toews, op. cit. 
'- In the Mennonite church the intoner of hymns, who occupies a seat near the 


VVhen he recovered he went to a house where he stayed 
for the night. The following day he was taken home. 

The next day, on January 27, a droshke came to pick 
me up and take me before Batko Noumenko. I had heard 
that Derksen had been murdered, and Duck had been 
almost killed, so that when Noumenko received me with 
curses I was prepared for the worst. At the interrogation 
the most unbelievable accusations were levelled at me. 
Among other things I was charged of burying alive fifteen 
men (partisans?), with their booted legs sticking out of 
the ground. 

Then Batko Noumenko, Batko Pravda and his brother, 
Mitka, left the room to reach a decision on me, while 
I remained behind with the guards. Almost immediately 
Batko Noumenko and Mitka returned, the former with 
an unsheathed sabre and the latter with a nogaika 
(whip). They had me taken to a barn, where I was made 
to lie face down on the concrete floor, and then they 
began beating me as if they were threshing grain, Noumenko 
using the flat side of the sword. After my back was 
completely cut up I had to turn face up and the beating 
continued. In between I was ordered to get up only to be 
struck down again. Once I was asked to kneel and they 
made the motion of beheading me. I almost saw my head 
rolling in front of me when I was ordered to get up and 
run in the direction of home. My eyes and face were 
covered with blood and I was so weak that I staggered and 
fell, but their shouting would pull me up and I would 
stumble on. Meanwhile the guards and the bystanders 
had their fun, jeering what fun it was to watch a 
"bourgeois" run. In a state of comptete exhaustion I 
finally reached home. 

About a week later when Batko Pravda and his 
brother were in Pravda's headquarters and they had 
been drinking for some time, an argument developed 
between them. Batko Pravda thereupon levelled his gun 
at Mitka and shot him through the head. A report of the 
incident was immediately carried to Makhno, who 
ordered Noumenko to bring Pravda to Gulai-Polye. Batko 
Noumenko and twenty heavily armed men arrived, sur- 
rounded Batko Pravda's headquarters and ordered him to 


come out. Pravda appeared at the door with a gun in each 

"What do you want?" he inquired. 

"You are arrested and are to appear before Batko 
Makhno immediately," was the answer. 

Pravda ordered one of his men to bring a carriage, 
and he drove to Gulai-Polye. Here, as he told it, Makhno 
had asked him why he had shot his brother, to which 
Pravda had replied that Mitka had repeatedly disobeyed 
his orders. Makhno had then patted him on the shoulder 
and said that he approved, discipline had to be maintained. 

When Batko Makhno returned to our village Mitka's 
body was taken to the Lubimovka cemetery. A large crowd 
was in attendance during the funeral, including some people 
from Schonfeld. Before the body was lowered into the 
grave Batko Pravda placed a loaded revolver in the coffin, 
saying that Mitka should not be defenseless when he faced 
bandits in the great beyond. ,:1 

While the operations of these lesser batkos were often 
very crude, Makhno usually added a special touch to his 
own exploits, which made him a batko of batkos. A selection 
from J. Kessel's articles "Buccaneers of the Steppes" 
reads like a passage from fiction, but accounts from other 
sources describing Makhno's operations are equally 
bizarre. Kessel's articles includes the following eye-witness 

At four o'clock in the afternoon, Makhno's advance 
guards galloped through the city, gathering all the scum 
of the manufacturing districts around them. Father 
Makhno in person, with his general staff, arriving the 
next morning. 

The slaughter of the bourgeoisie began immediately. 
Among others, a judge, a factory-owner, a big land- 
owner, an engineer, and a priest were thrown out of a 
fourth-story window. Father Makhno personally busied 
himself robbing the safes in the banks, and cleaned out 
completely the pawnbrokers' shops. 

l; The account continues with other stories of Pravda's exploits, and mentions 
a visit of Makhno, with whom Wiens was invited to have tea. By spring, 1920 
the increased terror forced the last inhabitants to flee from their homes and 
seek greater security in the Molotschnaia settlement. 


One evening Makhno, accompanied by a few followers, 
broke into my room, declaring that he wanted to know 
personally everyone who lived in the same house with 
him. He was very small, almost a dwarf, with abnormally 
long arms, and was dressed in an officer's overcoat, a 
high black cap on his head. 

"Do you know me?" he asked hoarsely; and without 
waiting for an answer said: "I'm Makhno." And he 
stretched his hand out to me. I do not recall what I said 
to him at that moment. In another twenty minutes he 
and his band were drinking vodka and tea, and eating 
cheese, bacon and sausage in my room. 
I do not know why they imagined, being quite drunk, 
that I was an acrobat. Anyway, they kept telling me: 
"Go on! Walk on your hands!" 

They drank until morning. Next evening they were 
again in my room, drinking, and insisted that I 
personally heat the samovar for them. 
Every morning Makhno reviewed his troops. "Good 
morning, my lads," was his usual greeting to them. 
He ordered high caps made out of the astrakhan coats 
he took from the pawnbrokers and distributed them 
himself among his best trusted men. In a cellar he 
found eighteen barrels of sunflower oil and decided, 
Communist fashion, to arrange a public distribution of 
it. Each woman and child that came to the market 
place received two pailfuls of oil. However, when a 
deputation of starving mail-carriers came to him with a 
petition, he sent them away. "I never write letters," he 
said by way of explanation. 

There also came to him a delegation of railway workers. 
"VVhat the devil are you good for?" he asked them. 
"Robbing the people, that's all you do. If anyone wants 
to go anywhere — let him take a cart and horse, and 
go! At least, there's no smoke and stench — I present 
all the railroad property to you, fellows." 
Next, he learned that a number of sick workers were 
starving in a hospital, and felt sorry for them. Im- 
mediately, and without any formality, he presented them 
with a million and a half rubles. A few minutes later 
he killed with his own hand a chauffeur who did not 



have his motor car ready on time. Some more exploits 
of his do not lend themselves to description. 
A surgeon who successfully operated on his wife for* 
appendicitis, he took a handful of diamonds from his 
pocket and presented them to him. The surgeon refusec 
them, and Makhno distributed the diamonds among 
the nurses. 

All this time Makhno's brother, who was Chief of 
Commissary, was pillaging private houses and present- 
ing gold watches to the faithful satellites of the 
"Father." 11 

There is much evidence to corroborate this account. 
Meleshko records how in his native village of Golodas 
group of twenty Makhnovites, headed by Tchus, raped 
the teacher's daughter, a teenager. On another occasion 
Makhno passed Meleshko, had a few friendly words with 
him, and entered a building to visit some of his wounded 
men. Then they heard a shot inside the building. A 
Makhnovite rushed out and reported that one of the wounded 
men had complained about the treatment he received 
from the feldsher (medical attendant), whereupon Makhno 
shot the feldsher. When Makhno emerged from the 
building he was again in good spirits. Grishka (Gregory), 
Makhno's brother, confided to Meleshko that he feared 
his brother as he "feared fire," and that if Makhno was 
so inclined he would shoot him without further thought. 

Makhno's subsequent claim that his activities were 
consistent with the objectives of anarchism, the liberation 
of the individual, is difficult to accept when contrasted 
to the terror which he (and his movement) spread even 
among his closest associates and supporters. 

It is not surprising, therefore, that many anarchists 
were not quite happy with Makhno. W. Chudolye, in 
reviewing Arshinov's book in an anarchist journal, as early 
as 1924, criticizes Makhno for not pursuing broader objec- 
tives. The writer explicitly states that he is not prepared to 
shed tears of sympathy on exterminated landowners, but, he 
continues, there is little heroism in shooting defenseless 
people, nor is it "the function of anarchism to train 

' ' Living Age, Vol. 315, No. 4, 1922, 276-277. 


executioners." He endorses Makhno's resourcefulness and 
partisan tactics as an invaluable example for the future, 
but Makhno's regime he labels an "anti-authority" author- 
itarianism, a "bastardisation" of anarchy, which should 
be rejected.'"' 

'•Volna (The Wave). No. 51, March. 1924. 


5. The Insurgent Army, Its Organization and Operations in 

On October 4, 1919, the "Chief of the Counter-Intel- 
ligence" of the Ukrainian National army prepared a report 
on Makhno and his army. Marked "top secret," the purpose 
of the report was to acquaint the commanding officers of 
the Ukrainian army with Makhno and the Makhnovshchina. 
The document was first published in a Ukrainian journal 
in Lvov, in 1935.' 

The report describes Makhno as "swarthy" in ap- 
pearance, "uneducated, possessing a peasant cunning and 
low morals," in short, "a regular bandit on horseback." 
"In his activities," the report continues, "he uses those 
methods and political-social concepts which will attract 
armed men or forces to his cause." It dismisses his 
ideological advisors as "men who found no place with 
the Bolsheviks," but concedes that they make every attempt 
to transform the gangs of bandits into more respectable 
units, "in which they are successful only as far as their 
plans do not run counter to those of Makhno." According 
to the report the "advisors are without genuine influence, 
and are used by Makhno mostly as 'orators' in the villages." 

The report finds that militarily the Makhnovtse are 
very loosely organized, that they do "not even have uni- 
forms," nor visible distinctions of rank. One paragraph in 
the section, "Organization of Makhno's Army" describes it in 
these words: 

Makhno and his staff have provided various statistics on 
the strength of their army, and their figures range from 
50,000 to 75,000 to 1 00,000 men. Actually Makhno commands 

M.S., "Makhno ta yogo Viisko (Makhno and His Army)", Subtitle, "Source 
Material on the History of the Ukrainian War of Liberation," Chervona 
Kalina, Lvov, 1935. The compiler of the report is the Nachalnik Kontr- 
Rosvidchogo Viddula K-ri Sapillia Divoi Armii, Sotnik. 


an army with a fighting strength of only a little over 
5000. To these must be added the men engaged in 
transport, the educational and political workers and the 
deputies, which, together, would bring the number up to 
over 8000 men. The army consists of ten regiments made 
up of eight regiments of infantry and two regiments of 
cavalry. This total includes the two Bolshevik regiments 
which joined Makhno after he left [his Bolshevik allies] 
at Uman. The cavalry is made up of 1500 men. The 
infantry moves on wagons, cabriolets, phaetons and other 
vehicles. They possess very many machine guns, and 
about 35 cannons of German and Russian make, but not 
enough ammunition. The military units have a large 
camp-following, including herds of sheep and cattle. 
Makhno also employs the use of camels and mules. 

The report finds that Makhno's fighting power is 
weakened because of a lack of medical supplies and the 
complete absence of field hospitals. These and the unsuited 
clothing contribute to the outbreak of various diseases. The 
incompatability of "banditry" with the "policies of the 
Ukrainian [Petlura] government creates confusion among 
the. rank, and constantly there is a stream of Makhnovtse 
who either leave for home or join the armies of the National 
government. "Furthermore, the whole leadership is con- 
centrated in the hands of Makhno. There is a military 
soviet to which even ordinary Makhnovtse can be elected, 
but this council has no power to influence the military 
tactics". Generally the regiments and the sotni (companies 
of one hundred) are commanded by "wily Makhnovite 
cossacks." The political line or direction is provided by 
Makhno, who is assisted by his deputies. The report 
states that while there is no definite political orientation 
within the Makhnovshchina, and its political platform "is 
often determined by the military position of the army," 
in general, "anarchist and communist views predominate." 

When it is considered that Makhno's army lives off 
the land, says the report, it is not surprising that the 
population is passively hostile, but not sufficiently aroused 
to take up arms against it. The explanation lies in the 
Makhnovite policy in directing their brigandage largely 


against landowners and wealthy peasants. The Makhnovtse 
have attempted to attract popular support, but their efforts 
have failed partly because in passing through a region 
they "tax" the peasants by confiscating their horses 
and wagons. It is also a fact, concludes this section of the 
report, that in regions where Makhno has not made his 
appearance, the peasants think quite highly of him. 

In comparing this comprehensive document with other 
non-anarchist sources and with the files of respondents, it is 
surprisingly accurate. Thus Meleshko's description of 
Makhnovite army on the march closely parallels the 
description in the report. Meleshko writes that the long lines 
of wagons hauling the plunder away consisted of vehicles 
from carts to hayracks and automobiles, the latter alsc 
pulled by oxen or camels, as the army had no fuel. There 
is also evidence that the lack of medical equipment was 
costly to the Makhno army. Wounded Makhnovtse were 
usually left unattended, and if they were badly woundec 
they would sometimes be shot by their own men as an ac 
of mercy. Often contagious diseases, especially typhus anc 
diarrhea, would immobilize large segments of the army. 
The sick men would remain in the homes where they hac 
been quartered and would be attended by the villagers, 
who in turn would often get the disease from them. In the 
Chortitza volost, settled by Mennonites, sick Makhnovtse 
were housed not only in homes but also in schools anc 
churches. One respondent reports that one of the chief 
problems was the prevalence of lice and the absence of 
soap. "Our first job would be to de-louse our patients," one 
woman told me. "When one of them removed his shirt you 
could almost see it move, especially along the hems 
Usually the Makhnovtse would wear their hair long, anc 
we would have to comb them for lice. The man woul 
sit with his head over the table and every time yc 
pulled the comb through his hair the lice would scatter 
on the table, and he would gleefully crush them with his 

All accounts indicate that diseases took the greatest 
toll of lives among the Makhnovtse, and presented a prob- 
lem which they were unable to solve. One respondent 
writes that in the village of Chortitza typhus broke out 




I w 

IR. ^ 


Nestor Makhno (1921) 


Young Makhno, in Gulai-Polye 

Baron Peter Wrangel, 1977-1 928. 
(died in Brussels) 

Leon Trotsky, 1 879-1 940. (assas- 
sinated in Mexico) 


* ' 


Hetman Pau I Skoropadsky, 1 873- 
1 945. (victim of an air attack on 

Simon Petlura, 1879-1926. (as- 
sasinated in Paris) 









~_ ; 





among the Makhnovites and spread so rapidly that not only 
all the hospital beds were filled but that also practically 
every home housed their patients. 2 The Makhnovtse at- 
tempted to mobilize the village girls to serve as nurses, 
but since the girls feared being molested and raped they 
hid in barns, empty buildings and in the undergrowth around 
the village pond. The village boys, many of them teenagers 
like himself, volunteered to take their places. The re- 
spondent was assigned to a classroom in the girls' high 
school. It had forty patients. Bedded on straw most of them 
were too weak to go to the toilet. The school's toilet 
facilities were inadequate for the large number of people, 
and pails were placed in the corridors. There was not 
enough help to empty them regularly, and as a result 
there was ankle-deep human waste on the floor. The dead 
were also stacked in the corridors waiting for removal. The 
attendants worked hard, but a rumor was spread that a staff 
inspection from Gulai-Polye would find their work un- 
satisfactory and they would be shot, whereupon he and 
others decided to leave and go into hiding. 

Another writer estimates that about half of the 
Makhnovtse quartered in this volost died of typhus. :; As 
chairman of a village he estimated that about seventy 
percent of the villagers were ill with typhus, and that from 
eleven to fifteen percent of the population, mostly adults, 
died. In his own village, with a 894 population, 637 had 
typhus and of these 94 died. Because of the long periods 
in which the Makhnovtse had been quartered in the 
volost most of the food was gone, and this posed an added 
problem. The people who were sick were undernourished 
and too weak to take care of the sick or .to bury the dead. 

Makhno's combat tactics were in keeping with the 
means at his disposal. His army was known as the 
"Insurgent Revolutionary Army of the Ukraine (Makhnovtse)", 
and its banner was the black flag of anarchy. Beyond 
these unifying elements its two salient factors of strength 
were continued limited action which would assure local 

-G. H. Fast, in a letter dated Rosenfeld, Manitoba, Canada, October 5, 1963. 

J. G. Rempel, Mennonitische Welt, IV, 5, May, 1951. Also: Mein Heimatdorf 

Nieder Chortitza, Rosthern, Sask., Canada, n.d., 72. The Chortitza volost was 

in the Zaporozhskii okruga, Ekaterinoslav province, across the Dnieper from 



but immediate success, and rapid maneuvers which would 
prevent the confrontation with regular army units. In the 
latter circumstance even defensive tactics were the exception, 
the rule was deployment. The pursuing enemy was thus 
also forced to spread out, meanwhile the Makhnovtse would 
regroup in clusters, wedge between small isolated army 
units, attack and if possible wipe them out. Their high 
mobility enabled them to strike simultaneously or con- 
secutively at widely different points. The pattern was to 
stage either a surprise raid or a night attack, or a com- 
bination of both. This not only kept the enemy in suspense, 
but also served to demoralize him. 

The tactics were developed in the years 1917-1918. 
Initially employed by small bands in raids on khutors and 
estates, they were expanded in the hit-and-run attacks 
on the German and Austro-Hungarian occupation forces 
and on the military police units of the Hetman regime. 
By 1919 these tactics had become much more sophisticated 
in their execution and were used in turn or simultaneously 
against competing bands, Petlura's National Ukrainian 
army, the Bolshevik or Red Army and the Volunteer armies 
of Denikin and Wrangel. While guerilla warfare was 
waged against these various opponents, the main target of 
the Makhnovtse continued to remain the kulak peasants 
and the urban middle class. 

The most colorful partisan leader, next to Makhno, was 
Nikifor Grigoriev, 1 and his liquidation by Makhno demon- 
strates Makhno's audacity and ruthlessness. Grigoriev had 
been an officer in the war, later had served in turn 
Skoropadsky and Petlura, who appointed him ataman of 
Zaporozhye, and then turned to the Bolsheviks in February, 
1919. Commanding a force of about 15,000 men he captured 
Kherson and Odessa and soon was in control of the entire 
lower right bank region of the Dnieper river. When the 

1 A very comprehensive account of Grigoriev's meteoric career appears in 
Arthur E. Adams, Bolsheviks in the Ukraine, New Haven, 1963. Numerous 
references to this Zaporozhian ataman, as well as to Makhno, are found in 
The Trotsky Papers, Vol. 1. John S. Reshetar, Jr., The Ukrainian Revolution, 
1917-1920. Princeton, 1 952, illustrates Grigoriev's bravado by citing his ultimatum 
to the commander of Odessa, that if he did not surrender, he would have 
his skin "used in a drum." (249). My chief sources for the Makhno-Grigoriev 
meeting are Voline, Arshinov and Nedilia, Nos. 42 and 43, October 27 and 
November 3, 1935. 


ped Army began to consider his success and popularity 
a threat to itself, it tried to direct his activities to Bessarabia. 
Like Makhno, Grigoriev did not like to operate too far away 
from his home base, deserted his allies and began negotia- 
tions with the Makhnovtse. Grigoriev was fiercely anti- 
jewish and responsible for numerous pogroms, especially 
in the province of Kherson, which had a large Jewish 
population. Perhaps because of the similarity of their careers 
Grigoriev and Makhno have sometimes been grouped to- 
gether as pogromchiki. 7 ' As we shall see later, Makhno 
was not anti-Semitic. 

By summer 1919 the Ukrainian peasantry had become 
increasingly disillusioned by the activities of the Red Army, 
and Grigoriev attempted to channel this sentiment to his 
cause by denouncing the Moscow "scoundrels." He also 
tried to enlist Makhno in his ventures and sent him a 
telegram reading: "Batko! Why do you still deal with the 
Communists? Kill them! Ataman Grigoriev." Afraid that 
his following would desert him and join Grigoriev, whose 
campaigns had successfully propelled him in the direction 
of Katerinoslav, Makhno and his advisors prepared a long 
"appeal" to the "peasants, toilers and Insurgents" in 
which they labelled Grigoriev a "traitor" and an "enemy 
of "the people." 11 The appeal was widely distributed and 
also appeared in the Gulai-Polye Insurgent paper Puit 
k Svobode and in the anarchist journal Nabat.' 

Meanwhile a successful drive by Denikin's Volunteer 
army swept across the eastern Ukraine. Gulai-Polye was 
occupied and Makhno retreated across the Kitchkas bridge 
to the right river bank of the Dnieper. His position was 
sufficiently precarious for him to remember Grigoriev's 
former overtures. Under the pretense of discussing a merger 
of their two camps and with the objective of attracting the 
ataman's following to his cause, Makhno sent word to 

"'Cf. Donald W. Treadgold, Twentieth Century Russia, Chicago 1959, 178: 
"Makhno and Hryhoryiv (Ukrainian for Grigoriev) now turned on the Com- 
munists and launched a partisan campaign against Communists. Jews and 
Russians . . .' " 

The "appeal" is reprinted in Arshinov, Geschichte der Machno-Bewegung , 

' According to Avrich only one issue of the Insurgent paper was published in 
Gulai-Polye, in May 1919. Nabat was edited by Voline and Arshinov. 


Grigoriev to meet him. Grigoriev consented, and the meeting 
of the two chiefs and their following took place on July 
27, 1919, in the village of Sentovo, in the province of Kherson. 
Arshinov writes that the discussion was held in public 
before a gathering of both camps and numbering about 
20,000 people. Grigoriev spoke first, and was followed by 
Makhno. The latter accused Grigoriev of being a counter- 
revolutionary, a pogromist and an enemy of the people. 
Grigoriev perceived too late that he had been led into 
a trap, but was unable to retreat. When Makhno had fin- 
ished, his henchman, Karetnik, took out his gun and shot 
Grigoriev. Makhno himself hurried across the platform and 
with the cry "Death to the ataman!" emptied his gun 
into the body of his late rival until the last traces of life 
subsided. Some of Grigoriev's close associates, taken by 
surprise, made a move to come to their leader's assistance, 
but Makhno's men were prepared and cut them down. 
The rank and file of Grigoriev's people saw that resistance 
was useless. Intimidated and cowed they agreed to a 
resolution that they be integrated in the Insurgent army. 

In some ways Makhno's greatest threat came from his 
weakest opponent, the army of the Ukrainian National Re- 
public, headed by Simeon Petlura. The position of the 
Ukrainian Republic was an unenviable one. "The political and 
social system prevailing up to 1917," writes Manning, 
"had not given any training in self-government to the 
Ukrainian people and in midst of war and revolution they 
had to start on the most elementary tasks of popular 
education, while at the same time they corrected funda- 
mental abuses in the economic situation and created and 
administered a government."* 

Petlura, a moderate socialist, faced two powerful and 
implacable enemies of Ukrainian independence, the Red 
Army and Denikin's Volunteer (White) army. In addition 
he had to contend with the corrosive activities of such free- 
wheeling spirits as Grigoriev and Makhno. Many Ukrainians 
contend that if it had not been for Makhno the fortunes of 
the ill-fated young Republic might have fared differently. 

Makhno's ranks were constantly replenished with 

^Clarence A. Manning, Ukraine under (he Soviets, New York, 1953, 16. 

dissidents who left Petlura either because they thought 
petlura's social policies, such as land distribution, went 
too far or did not go far enough. To appease the revolu- 
tionaries in its own ranks the Petlura army, popularly 
known as the Petlurovtse, became excessively permissive, 
and one writer claims that in its make-up, organization and 
operations it often almost resembled Makhno's army. 9 
Though this statement is an exaggeration, these conditions, 
together with the new Ukrainian national consciousness 
which characterized the Petlurovtse, served to attract many 
Makhnovtse to Petlura. The very existence of the Petlura 
army thus represented a constant threat to Makhno's hold 
on his followers. While Makhno never ceased hurling 
epithets such as "counter-revolutionary" in the direction 
of Petlura, he was careful not to go too far so as not to 
offend the national sensitivity of his following. 

In contrast to Denikin's officers, who were labelled 
derisively Zolotopogniki ("Golden Epaulets"), the Makhnovtse 
called Petlura's officers Zolotorutshniki ("Golden Hands"). 
The confidential report by Petlura's counter-intelligence 
already quoted 1 " states that the Makhnovtse regarded 
the Petlura government as typically petite bourgeois, but 
that their precarious military position restrained them 
from being more aggressive than they were, that the 
relationship between the Petlurovtse and the Makhnovtse 
was often dependent on Makhno's moods, which would 
range from "outbursts of abuse to a state of megalomania, 
that if Petlura will not respect him, he will not respect 
Petlura." The report concludes that there can be no useful 
relationship since Makhno recognized no form of govern- 
ment, and that the very philosophy of the Makhnovites 
prevented them from subordinating themselves to any out- 
side authority. "If possible," ends the report, "we should 
attempt to edge Makhno's army behind Denikin's line 
where Denikin would require a greater force than Makhno's 
to liquidate him." 

Thus not even a symbiosis developed between Petlura 
and Makhno, and in several instances negotiators sent out 
by the Petlurovtse fared no better at the hands of Makhno 

'Nedilia, No. 43. November 3, 1935. 
"Makhno ta vogo Viisko," Chervona Kalina, 1935. 


than those sent out by the Red Army, or later by Wrangel. 
They were shot. Indeed, one of Makhno's most spectacular 
victories was won at Petlura's expense when Makhno 
captured the city of Katerinoslav in December 1918 and held 
it for five days. Later when Petlura, in his military 
extremity, negotiated with Pilsudski and in an agreement 
granted Poland East Galicia and Volhynia, the Makhnovtse 
were outraged, not so much that Petlura had signed away 
Ukrainian territory, as that he had collaborated with 
Pan Pilsudki." The pact did not save Petlura, and when 
Poland unilaterally made peace with the Soviet govern- 
ment the days of the Ukrainian National Republic were 
numbered. Petlura himself went to Paris as an exile, and 
in 1926 was assassinated, allegedly by a man named 
Schwarzbart, an acquaintance of Makhno. 

The degree to which the Petlura-Pilsudski pact was 
resented by many Ukrainian nationalists was brought out 
in a letter which I received from Mr. Zenon Jaworskyj, 
formerly an officer of the USS (Ukrainskii Sitch Streltsi). 12 
Up to 1918 Galicia, a province settled largely by Ukrainians, 
was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. In 1916 the Vienna 
government created two battalions known as the "USS" 
which were made up exclusively of Galicians (Ukrainians). 
When the Empire collapsed Galicia became independent 
and formed its own government under Dr. Eugene 
Petrushevych. Its goal was the ultimate merger with Ukraine 
proper, but in the interim Ukraine had two separate govern- 
ments both of which had for the period July-November 1919 
their seat in Kamenets-Podolsk, not far from the Polish bor- 
der. Mr. Jaworskyj writes that they were appalled at the 
proposed alliance with Poland, "the deadly enemy of 
Ukraine." Three officers of the USS brigade, Major Osyp 
Bukshowanyj, Captain Zenon Noskowskyj and he (Jaworskyj), 
later joined by Captain Myron Luckyj, decided to assassinate 
Petlura. The date was set for August 25, 1919, but they 
found him too heavily guarded. Suspecting a plot, Petlura 
sent an ultimatum to Dr. Petrushevych to order the brigade 
to the Soviet front. The conspirators then decided to open 
negotiations with Makhno. The meeting with Makhno, also 

"Pan, meaning "Lord," or nobleman. 
-Letter dated Ann Arbor, Michigan, January 1, 1968. 


attended by Jaworskyj, took place on September 27, 1919 
in the village of Khrystynivka, near Uman. They proposed 
to Makhno an alliance directed against Pilsudski and 
Denikin, and also discussed military action against the 
Red Army. Makhno was sympathetic, but events took their 
own cataclysmic course, as we shall see in a later chapter. 


6. Shifting Alliances: The Insurgents, the Red Army, 
Volunteer Army 

The Makhno-Petlura relationship, for the greater part 
of the Civil War, can be described as one of hostile 
neutrality. Makhno vilified the Ukrainian nationalist leader 
but courted his followers. In turn Petlura, while unhappy 
that Makhno should attract so many followers who shoulc 
have been in the ranks of the Ukrainian national army, 
was appeased in that at least they could not be mobilizec 
by the Red and White armies. The greatest testimonial 
to Petlura's altruistic nationalism is the fact that he on 
more than one occasion provided his Red Cross services 
to the sick and wounded Makhnovtse. 1 As for the relation- 
ship between Makhno and the Volunteer (White) army, 
most confrontations between them developed into fights 
marked by unusual bitterness and savagery. Makhno's 
relationship with the third warring party, the Red Army, 
took a most mercurial course. There were periods when 
they were mutual friends and allies, there were other 
periods of mutual acrimonious name-calling, and there 
were also periods of mutual throat-cutting. 

The history of the Volunteer Army is a long anc 
painful study in failure. When the Revolution fragmented 
Russia, the Don Cossacks became a semi-autonomous state 
and elected General Kaledin as their ataman. Meanwhile, 
as the Bolsheviks consolidated their power in Russia, 
many officers filtered to the Don, partly for their own 
protection and partly to organize a resistance against 
the Bolsheviks. Among them were such reputed army 
commanders as Kornilov, Alexiev, Denikin and Krasnov. 
It was Alexiev who began organizing the remnants of 
the Russian army into a new fighting force which became 

1 Nedilia, No. 43, 1935; and Arshinov, Geschichte aer Machno-Bewegung , 170. 


known as the Volunteer Army, or, more commonly, as the 
White army. The huge old tsarist army had of necessity a 
large cadre of officers, and since these were singled as 
objects of hate by the revolutionaries, a regular stream of 
them made their way to the Don. Their Russian patriotism 
was demonstrated when later tens of thousands of them 
were willing to serve in the ranks of the Volunteer Army. 
Whole army units were thus composed entirely of former 
officers. But there was also much jealousy and bickering 
especially among the senior officers. Ataman Kaledin was 
most unhappy with the influx of so many "counter- 
revolutionary elements," which weakened his own position 
with the cossacks, many of whom were hostile to the 
Russians. In despair he committed suicide. 

Denikin was only forty-seven years old when he took 
over the command of the Volunteer Army from Alexiev in 
early 1919, but his generation had experienced the 
humiliation of defeat in the recent war and he gave the 
impression of a tired old man. 2 Of peasant background 
and of a conciliatory disposition he projected more of an 
Eisenhower image than that of tsarist despotism. But he 
was completely befuddled by the rapidity of change. More- 
over, a Russian patriot, he could not understand how non- 
Russian nationals would want to break away from Russia. 
He regarded their national aspirations as the invention 
of the intelligentsia. His position was re-enforced by such 
Russian nationalists as Paul N. Milyukov, the leader of 
the Constitutional Democratic party (the Kadets), who had 
also made his way to the Don. Their inflexible position on 
the question of nationalities was one reason why the 
revolutionaries of all colors made the term "Kadet" 
synonymous with reaction. While the Bolshevik government 
created a "People's Commissariat for the Affairs of 
Nationalities" under J. Stalin to "put an end to the op- 
pression and inequality of the non-Russian nationalities,"'' 
the leaders of the Volunteer Army failed to grant any 
concessions to the national sentiment of the people whose 
regions they occupied. To them the Don, the Kuban, 

-Anton Ivanovich Denikin (1872-1947) spent most of his later years of exile 
in England. He died in Ann Arbor, Michigan. 
History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Moscow, 1960, 270. 


mm- m. 

::;. It 




the Ukraine were bases with ample supplies of food anc 
fuel, lying close to excellent seaports through which addi- 
tional aid could be shipped in. 

Furthermore, the social problems which gave rise to 

such movements as the Makhnovshchina, if mentioned 
at all, were to be "solved" after "victory." It is 
symptomatic that in the numerous memoirs which made 
their appearance in the 1920's the military and polit 
leaders of the Volunteer Army rarely mention Makhno, 
while the Bolshevik records, to mention^only the "Trotsky 
Papers," refer repeatedly to him. On one occasion, during 
the Civil War, Denikin is reportedly to have shouted, "| 
don't want to hear anything more about Makhno!"' and 
the name does not appear in his memoirs. 

In contrast to the Volunteer Army the Red Army had a 
much more versatile and politically oriented leadership. 
The military reputations of Soviet heroes like Voroshilov, 
Frunse and Budyenney were established in the Ukraine. 
Kamenev's"' diplomacy and Trotsky's drive both played 
their role in the Soviet victory. But the primary architect 
of success was the many faceted Lenin. From distant 
Moscow he would either check Trotsky and encourage 
Antonov-Ovseenko, who was the commander-in-chief in 
the Ukraine during the first phase of the Civil War, or he 
would give full reign to the impatient Trotsky to crush 
all opposition. Makhno, who was later to accuse Lenin of 
flagrant hypocrisy, was told by him in the summer of 1918 
that "genuine anarchists" like Makhno and the Bolsheviks 
had "a common goal."' 1 Lenin's resourcefulness was 
demonstrated repeatedly in his treatment of Makhno. In 
early May 1919, the position of the Red Army in the 
Ukraine, in Lenin's own words, was "critical, well-nigh 
castastrophic." 7 They needed every ally they could find 
and had entered into a military alliance with Makhr 
whose units were integrated within the Red Army, with 

'Ned ilia, No. 43, 1935. 

■Lev B. Kamenev (Rosenfeld) had been editor of Pravda, chairman of the 

Moscow soviet and was a member of the Politburo from 1917 to 1927. He 

was liquidated by Stalin in 1936. 
■Makhno, "Tenth Anniversary of the Revolutionary Insurrection," Delo Truda, 

Nos. 44-45, 1928. 
directive to the Soviet leaders in Ukraine, marked "top secret" and dated 

May 8, 1919, signed by Lenin, Stalin and Krestinski. The Trotsky Papers, 407. 


Makhno remaining in command. The arbitrary and im- 
pulsive Trotsky was outraged at Makhno's behaviour and 
the influence the Makhnovtse had on the Red Army. In a 
secret message to the Communist Central Committee 
in Moscow and dated May 1, 1919 he wrote that "the 
purging of openly criminal elements from these units, the 
establishment of firm discipline, the abolition of the practice 
of electing commanders, the combating of demagogy 
among the commanders, who were insolent in their be- 
haviour towards higher military and Soviet authorities" 
was absolutely necessary. The "Makhno problem," he 
suggests, can only be solved by the "most savage 
measures," which he lists as "cutting down its strength 
by perhaps a half or two thirds"; "shooting . . . and 
imprisonment in the concentration camps; simultaneously 
(conducting) a decisive struggle against 'meetingprone' 

Instead of endorsing the recommendations of Trotsky, 
Lenin, who had already sent General Antonov, the com- 
mander-in-chief of the southern front, to pay a courtesy call 
on Makhno on April 29, on May 4 and 5 sent an impressive 
delegation of Soviet leaders, including Lev Kamenev, to 
Gulai-Polye to assure Makhno that his services were indeed 
appreciated. When the appropriate time came Lenin had no 
more scruples than Trotsky on turning on his former ally. 
At the conclusion of the Civil War when most of the 
Makhnovite leaders had either been shot or had fled 
abroad, those who had been captured were tried in Moscow. 
One of them, Voline, accused the Bolsheviks of having 
themselves broken an agreement with Makhno and of 
having committed treason. Samsonov, the prosecutor, 
retorted: "You call that treason? Our view is that we 
pursued a policy of realism: as long as we needed Makhno 
we exploited him; after we no longer needed him, we 
successfully liquidated him." !l 

It is not the purpose of this book to trace the tortuous 
course of Makhno's campaigns and alliances, but a 
chronological summary of them illustrates the complex 

"Ibid., 391-392. 

"Wollin (Voline), in his Introduction to Arshinov, Geschichte der Machno- 
Bewegung, 26. 



pattern of successful guerilla warfare. This is not to 
suggest that Makhno developed a pattern, or was even 
aware of it. His own associates were at times alarmed 
at his easy-going unconcern about the future." 1 The 
Revolution had created conditions in which large areas of 
Russia were without authority. Makhno's keen perception 
ferreted out these power-vacuums and he filled them. In 
this Makhno presents an interesting contrast to Lenin. 
Before Lenin's "seizure of power" in October he was 
warned by Zinoviev and Kamenev, "We are told: (1) that 
the majority of the people of Russia is already with us, 
and (2) that the majority of the international proletariat 
is with us. Alas! — neither the one nor the other is true, 
and this is the crux of the entire situation." 11 Lenin 
was as aware of this as his two comrades, but he accepted 
the challenge and directed the events. Makhno's role was 
simply to fill a void. 

Makhno's resourcefulness as a partisan of more than 
ordinary talent became apparent when the Germans and 
their allies withdrew from the Ukraine. There was a brief 
struggle between the Skoropadsky and Petlura factions, 
with Petlura emerging as the victor. But his hold on the 
country was most precarious. At this propitious time Makhno 
seized the railway centers at Chaplino, Sinelnikovo and 
at other points, allied himself with local Bolshevik groups, 
who accepted him as their leader, and sent a train-load of 
his followers, disguised as workers, to occupy Katerinoslav, 
the capital of Ekaterinoslav province which had been oc- 
cupied by Petlura. He held the city for only a few days, 
but his reputation was established. Moreover, he captured 
large stores of arms, and his "requisitions," conducted 
in the homes of the middle class citizenry, had provided 
his followers with rich rewards. These "supplies" were 
now moved to Gulai-Polye. Half-jokingly and half-seriously 
this Makhnovite citadel now sometimes was referred to as 
Makhnograd. Almost immediately, however, the Makhnovtse 
found themselves in a vice as Denikin's Voluntary Army 
approached from the south and the Red Army from the 
north, the former with Moscow as its objective, the latter 

"'Arshinov, Geschichte der Machno-Bewegung, 275. 

" Lenin, Toward the Seizure of Power, II, New York, 1932, 329. 


the control of the Ukraine up to the shores of the Black Sea. 
Denikin's army was the more immediate threat and Makhno 
made his first move against it. As the Volunteer Army 
rushed north to occupy the Ukraine, Makhno's infantry, on 
machine-gun mounted carriages, and cavalry, forming long 
two-row columns and moving from sixty to one hundred 
versts (1 verst = 2/3 of a mile) a day, cut deep into the 
exposed Denikin hinterland, occupying and holding such 
southern key cities as Berdianek and Mariupol from 
January until summer, 1919. Makhno even sent one hundred 
train cars with captured grain as a trophy to the workers 
of Moscow and Petrograd, where the population was on 
the brink of starvation. One of Denikin's officers, General 
Shkuro, 1 - and his cossack cavalry, copying some of the 
techniques of Makhno, successfully curbed Makhno's 
operations, but the diversion had blunted Denikin's drive to 

After the Denikin retreat the Red Army, under 
Dybenko, occupied the Gulai-Polye region. For his exploits 
the Bolshevik press had hailed Makhno as a hero and an 
ally. It is possible that the Bolsheviks failed to see the unique 
character of Makhno and his movement, and that they 
feU Makhno could be "domesticated" and that his followers 
could be subordinated and integrated into the Red Army. In 
short, the Bolsheviks planned to absorb the Makhno move- 
ment. Makhno was aware of these designs, but since the 
threat of the Volunteer Army was the immediate danger 
he hoped that the confrontation with the Bolsheviks 
could be deferred, or at least confined to discussions. 
Since the Bolsheviks had little support in the Ukraine, 
especially among the peasantry, Makhno felt confident that 
he would win in a "confrontation of theories." The peasants 
had quite often demonstrated their opposition to the Bol- 

'- General Andrei Shkuro (1886-1947) was also unusually successful In his 
campaigns against the Red Army. He spent his years of exile in Germany. 
In 1945 when the British "repatriated" tens of thousands of cossacks and their 
families, who were staying in camps at Lientz. Austria, many of them com- 
mitted suicide rather than return to the Soviet Union. General Shkuro. who 
had left his home in Salzburg in an attempt to persuade the British to cease 
their forced repatriations, was also seized by them and turned over to the 
Soviets. According to Moscow Pravda report of January 16. 1947, the cossack 
leaders, including General Shkuro, had been sentenced to death for treason 
and the sentence had already been carried out. 


scheviks and their land policy by attacking and killinc 
their commissars. 

Faced with a common enemy the Bolscheviks anc 
Makhnovtse negotiated a union despite their differences. 
The union soon became obsolete, but was again re- 
negotiated in October, 1920 (see: Appendix). The terms of 
union provided that: 1) the inner organization of the 
Makhnovites would remain unchanged (that is, voluntary 
recruitment, election of commanders, and order by self- 
discipline, which allowed the individual Makhnovite con- 
siderable latitude); 2) the Makhno army would have, like 
the Red Army, political commissars appointed by the 
Communist party, to supervise its political orientation; 
3) in combat the Makhno army would serve under the 
supreme command of the Red Army; 4) the Makhno army 
would operate primarily against the Volunteer (Denikin) 
army; 5) the Makhno army would retain its black flag 
and the name Revolutionary Insurgent Army (Makhnovtse). I:i 

The Bolsheviks soon realized that Makhno was a very 
independent ally. They began to short-supply his units 
and initiate a press campaign in which the Makhnovshchina 
was presented as a form of kulak resistance. The campaign 
was stepped up when Makhno openly began to "cold- 
shoulder" the Bolshevik political commissars attached to 
his units. The Bolsheviks even succeeded in infiltrating 
the Makhno movement and involved one of Makhno's 
regimental commanders, Padalka, in a plot to assassinate 
the batko. But Makhno's extraordinary sense for danger 
saved him. While Makhno generally travelled on horseback, 
this time he flew from Berdiansk to Gulai-Polye, surprised 
the conspirators and had them shot. The Bolshevik- 
Makhnovite relationship now became extremely strained, 
and when the Makhnovtse prepared to hold a workers' 
and peasants' congress on April 10, 1919, as part of their 
ideological war with the Communists, the Red Army com- 
mander Dybenko sent a telegram forbidding the holding 
of the congress as counter-revolutionary. 

The Volunteer Army was encouraged by the rift and 
General Shkuro sent a letter to Makhno, commending his 

' Arshinov, Geschichte der Machno-Bewegung , 118-120. 



patriotic resistance. The letter was disdainfully published 
by the Makhnovtse, but Lenin, sensing the danger of an 
alliance between Makhno and Shkuro, played on the 
former's vanity by sending General Antonov and a few days 
later Kamenev 11 to Gulai-Polye as plenipotentiaries of 
peace. Moreover, Makhno was still in control of stores of 
food and fuel in his region and would part with them 
only in exchange for arms and munitions. 

On May 22, 1919, Trotsky, as Chairman of the Military 
Revolutionary Council, sent the following note, marked 
"Secret," from Kharkov to Lenin in Moscow: "It is essential 
to organize a large detachment, consisting of, roughly, one 
reliable Cheka battalion, several hundred Baltic Fleet sailors 
who have the getting of. coal and bread at heart, a supply 
detachment of Moscow or Ivanova-Voznesensk workers and 
some thirty senior Party workers, for the purpose of 
obtaining supplies of bread and coal from the Mariupol 
area and disciplining Makhno's anarchist bands. Only on 
this condition will an advance in the Mariupol-Taganrog 
direction become possible." But Lenin cautioned Trotsky 
to play Makhno's game a little longer. His answer was 
sent on May 26, 1919, through Kamenev. It read: "The 
Council of Defense recommends that an immediate 
start be made with the speedy loading of coal at Mariupol 
for delivery to the Port Commander at Petrograd. In 
the event of opposition from Makhno, coal supplies are to 
be obtained from him on a barter basis, and textiles 
and other goods sent to Mariupol for this purpose by the 
shortest possible route." 1 " 1 

Makhno responded. His troops again fought shoulder to 
shoulder with the Red Army. Once more the Communist 
press greeted Makhno as the custodian of the peasants' 
and workers' cause, but the success and new role swelled his 
ego. He again announced the holding of a peasants' 
congress for May 31. On June 4 Trotsky branded the 
unilateral Makhno action illegal. Simultaneously Denikin's 
army swept back the Makhno units and on June 6 General 

1 ' It was Politburo member Lev Kamenev. and not General Sergei S. Kamenev, 
as some historical accounts have it. General Kamenev, a former tsarist officer 
and later a Communist commander, was also active on the Ukrainian front, 
but not as a Commissar. 

'■The Trotsky Papers. I. 459-469. 



Shkuro occupied Gulai-Polye. When Red Army General 
Voroshilov arrived at Makhno's camp on June 9 Makhno 
was beaten, at least for the moment. He consented to 
relinquish his command and leave his troops with the Red 
Army. Makhno was permitted to leave and he disappeared, 
but most of his staff were arrested and shot. 

Meanwhile the reinvigorated Volunteer Army offensive 
continued, and Alexandrovsk, Katerinoslav and Kharkov 
were captured in rapid succession. The Red Army retreated 
in utter confusion. Once more Makhno emerged. Many of 
his troops, joined by other "Reds", deserted the Red 
Army and came to Makhno. He appealed to the retreating 
Red Army soldiers to do away with their commissars 
and join him to fight Denikin. Since he lacked weapons 
he sometimes attacked Denikin units for the purpose of 
acquiring arms. Fighting and retreating westwards, Makhno 
was confronted with the forces of Ataman Grigoriev, a 
problem he solved in his own inimitabfe way by shooting 
Grigoriev and taking the ataman's men into his own army. 

But the Volunteer Army pursued him relentlessly. 
Prisoners of war, on either side, rarely survived. When his 
brother, Grishka, was killed in action against Denikintse, 
Makhno staged a blood-bath by killing all wounded "White" 
officers. By the end of September the Volunteer Army 
had encircled Makhno near Uman. It seemed that his doom 
was sealed. In a desperate gamble Makhno, together with 
his company of one hundred, stealthily stole away and left 
his main army to face the brunt of the battle. Then he 
emerged from some ravine and surprised the Volunteers 
by attacking their flank. As panic spread among the 
"Whites" the battle reversed. Arshinov writes, "The Sim- 
feropol regiment of officers was slaughtered to the last 
man. A distance of two to three kilometers was literally 
covered with enemy dead." Now Makhno swept back, "like 
a giant broom he went through villages and cities," destroyed 
and massacred anyone he regarded as an enemy, "land- 
owners, kulak peasants, policemen, priests, village elders 
and officers" (Arshinov). Like a whirlwind he moved on, 
sometimes one hundred kilometers a day. One day after 
the victory he occupied Krivoi Rog and was before Nikopol, 
another day and he captured the Kichkas Dnieper bridge 



and occupied Alexandrovsk. In one week he occupied 
Orechov, Pologi, Tokmak, Melitopol and Mariupol. Re- 
pulsed, he turned north and took Katerinoslav on October 

Denikin had dispatched the partisan fighter, General 
Shkuro, from the Bolshevik front, and though he captured 
Gulai-Polye he lost about half of his cavalry. Makhno 
himself spent most of his time on an armored train on 
the line Berdiansk-Chaplino-Sinelnikovo. He expected the 
Denikin counter-offensive to come from Taganrog, instead it 
came from Losovaia. It was so unexpected that of Makhno's 
300 tachankas, only two had returned the fire. In this 
engagement the Terek regiment captured about two 
hundred tachankas, horses and plunder. Though the 
Makhnovtse were either killed or escaped, about 400 
women they had with them were captured. Makhno's 
own sheepskin coat with the embroidered "Batko Makhno" 
label was found on one carriage. 

Both sides won and lost engagements, but irreparable 
damage had been done to Denikin by Makhno's break- 
through. Denikin, who had planned to reach Moscow by 
December, was now forced back by the Red Army and 
his retreat developed almost into a rout. The alarm and 
terror which the Makhnovtse had spread during their sweep 
through Southern Ukraine had mounted steadily, and with 
good reason. Only isolated statistics are available, but in 
every county through which Makhno moved, people were 
shot. In the Sagradovka volost 200 people were shot in 
three days, in the Nikolaipol volost 119 people were shot, 
seventy-six of them, or the entire male population over 
sixteen years old and some women, in one village. When 
Makhno had approached Taganrog, where Denikin had his 
headquarters, the terror-stricken administration personnel 
had fled to Rostov, Kharkov or in any other direction 
away from Makhno. Petrovich's account has the report of 
an eye-witness who walked from Alexandrovsk (Zaporozhye) 
to Chaplino, where he borded the train for Berdiansk. 
He writes that though Denikin's forces were nominally still 
in control of the railway, the name of Makhno was in the 
air and every station was deserted. When he checked 
into a hotel at Berdiansk he was assured that Makhno 


was nowhere near. At night he heard cannon fire. Makhno 
was in the process of taking over the city. He describe 
the occupation in these words: 

I was asleep when I was awakened by artillery fire. 
I rushed out. The street was a scene of madness. 
Soldiers ripped off their epaulets or threw away their 
uniforms and weapons, and cavalry rode in every direction 
not knowing where to go. With some difficulty I made my 
way to the shore" 1 and saw that the cannonade came 
from the cemetery and the fishing village of Liski. 
Soldiers gathered at the port, which was under fire, 
but in the distance you could see the lights of ships 
which were to evacuate them. In the harbor lay a coast 
guard cutter and near it was a tank which returned 
the fire. The boat, loaded with people, began moving 
away from shore when it turned over, spilling its load 
and cargo into the sea. The Volunteers fought tenaciously, 
but by eleven o'clock the Makhnovtse were in control 
of the port. The fishermen of Liski, organized by Makhno, 
had captured the artillery of the Whites and immediately 
began shelling the city. For two days the Makhnovtse 
combed the city for officers and policemen who were 
then shot. They employed the help of street urchins who 
received 100 rubles per head. The population hid in the 
houses and stayed off the streets. On the third day 
Makhno's commander arrived in the city, and a day later 
Makhno himself and his staff. The executions ceased 
and there even appeared a newspaper, Free Berdiansk. 
Soon thousands of wagons and carts arrived from the 
surrounding villages and emptied the stores . . , 17 

But despite his astounding success in guerilla warfare, 
Makhno had no plans for the organization of the territory 
he occupied. When, at the end of December, 1919, the 
Red Army appeared, the Makhnovtse gave up Alexandrovsk 
(Zaporozhye), one of the last cities still in their hands. 
"The soldiers of the two armies," writes Voline, who was 
with the Makhnovtse, "greeted each other fraternally and 

"•Berdiansk is a seaport on the Sea of Azov. 
'■Nedilia, No. 43, 1935. 



a meeting took place at which the combatants shook 
hands and declared that they would fight together against 
the common enemy — capitalism and counter-revolution." 
Then Makhno entrenched himself once more in Gulai- 
Polye. He expected the fraternization between his men and 
the Red Army would draw men to his side, but the 
Bolsheviks were not prepared to repeat Denikin's mistake 
and expose their hinterland to Makhno. A week passed 
and then Makhno received orders from Moscow to move 
his force against Poland. Makhno refused, claiming, 
truthfully, that he was ill and that half of his men were 
sick with typhus, but he also knew that severing him 
from his native peasants would spell his end. But Moscow 
was relentless and now the hunter became the hunted. Since 
the Bolsheviks feared that their war-weary Ukrainian 
and Russian troops might become easy victims of 
Makhnovite propaganda, they employed mostly Chinese and 
Latvian regiments against Makhno. 

All through the year 1920 and even later (writes 
Arshinov) the Soviet authorities carried on the fight 
against the Makhnovists, pretending to be fighting 
banditry. They engaged in intense agitation to persuade 
the country of this, using their press and all their 
means of propaganda to uphold the slander both within 
and outside Russia. At the same time, numerous divisions 
of sharpshooters and cavalry were sent against the 
insurgents, for the purpose of destroying the movement 
and pushing its members towards the gulf of real 
banditry. The Makhnovist prisoners were pitilessly put 
to death, their families — fathers, mothers, wives, 
relatives — were tortured and killed, their property was 
pillaged or confiscated, their houses were destroyed. All 
this was practiced on a large scale. ,s 

Constantly pursued and harassed, Makhno's following 
dwindled, and even among these many were untrustworthy. 
The Bolsheviks infiltrated agents with the objectof assassinat- 
ing Makhno, and, for a price, even some of his own men 
became involved in these plots. Though these plotters, 

K Voline, The Unknown Revolution, 184. 


according to Makhnovite accounts, 1 " were exposed 
shot, they were an ever present additional threat to 
Makhno. One respondent, a boy at the time, recalls how 
in the summer of 1920 a troop of about 120 Makhnovtse 
arrived at the village of Kusmitski, near Piatikhatka.^ 
They seized a man suspected of being a Bolshevik agent 
and shot him. Then an attack by a Red Army unit 
surprised them. It was so unexpected that the Makhnovtse 
even unhitched the horses and left the tachankas behind 
in order to get away faster. Riding, sometimes two men on 
a horse and others hanging on to the horse's tail, they 
attempted to flee, but were overtaken and cut down. 
The village boys collected the plunder which had been left 
on the streets, and the writer mentions the surprise of his 
friend when he inspected a large hat and found part of the 
head of a Makhnovite in it. 

But fortune was to smile once more, and for the last 
time, on Nestor Makhno. The tired generalissimo of the 
Volunteer Army, Denikin, was replaced by the more ag- 
gressive General Wrangel. He succeeded in infusing a last 
flicker of life into the army, which left its Crimean sanctuary 
and captured Berdiansk and Alexandrovsk (and Gulai- 
Polye) before it entrenched itself at Chortitza. Wrangel 
made an attempt to unite the divergent political views to 
support a drive on the Red Army. He even sent a message, 
signed by Colonel Eugene Konovalets, to Makhno, offering 
terms for an alliance. But Makhno had his pride, and, to 
impress the rank and file that he was not prepared to 
collaborate with Wrangel, he had the messenger, a young 
man, shot. Several respondents, who had been with Wrangel's 
army, insist, however, that for weeks there had been a truce 
between the Wrangeltse and Makhnovtse. 

Evidence in support of this is the Bolshevik readiness 
to resume once more negotiations with Makhno which, by 
October 15, 1920, resulted in a firm agreement (see: Ap- 
pendix). Later Makhno was to recall that Moscow had been 
unusually friendly and had dispatched the wily Hungarian 

'■'Arshinov, Geschichte der Machno-Bewegung, 204-206. 
-"Peter Harder, Abbotsford, B.C., Canada, in a letter dated November 28, 



revolutionary, Bela Kun, to visit him at Ulianovka.- 1 
On behalf of the Communist Central Committee Bela Kun 
presented him with a collection of one hundred photographs 
of the executive of the III. International, "dedicated to 
the champion of the toilers' and peasants' revolution, 
General Batko Makhno." Bela Kun also inquired whether 
Moscow should send a surgeon to look after Makhno's needs. 

Makhno succumbed. The decision to side with the 
Red Army was made easier as Wrangel's drive was soon 
spent and the "Whites" were once more pushed into the 
Crimea. While the pursuing Red Army stopped at Perekop, 
on the narrow isthmus leading to the Crimea, its ally, the 
Makhno army, commanded by Simeon Karetnik, crossed 
the shallow frozen Siwash, about twenty-five versts east 
of Perekop and invaded the Crimea. Rushing ahead of the 
Red Army, Karetnik's troops attacked and occupied Simfero- 
pol on November 14. The Wrangel army and many civilians 
were evacuated from the port of Sevastopol, and the city 
itself fell to the Red Army on November 15. The fate of 
General Wrangel,-- the 130,000 evacuated refugees, and 
the tens of thousands of soldiers and sympathizers who 
were left behind is a woeful story, but perhaps less tragic 
than the fate which overtook the Makhnovtse. 

When the triumph of the Red Army was assured, 
Red Army General Frunze announced, on November 23, 
that with the termination of the Civil War all military units 
other than those of the Red Army were to be dissolved. 
Resistance was expected from Karetnik as well as from 
Makhno, who had remained behind in Gulai-Poyle. The 
Red Army, without a day's delay, attacked the Makhno 
army in the Crimea and, except for one cavalry unit, wiped 
it out. The one unit, a troop of 1500 men under Marchenko, 
escaped and fled to Gulai-Polye, where, when it arrived, it 
had been reduced to 250 men. Karetnik, the commander 
of the Makhno army in the Crimea, was shot at Mariupol, 

''Makhno, "An Open Letter to the (Moscow) Central Committee," Delo Truda, 
Nos. 37-38, 1928. 

Peter Nikolaevich Wrangel (1878-1928) succeeded Denlkin as commander-in- 
chief on April 4, 1920. He died in exile, in Belgium. Brinkley provides the fol- 
lowing statistics for the Crimean evacuation: 126 ships and 150,000 people, 
including 50,000 combat troops, 40,000 rear military personnel, 3000 military 
school cadets. 6000 wounded and 50,000 civilians. George A. Brinkley. The 
Volunteer Army and Allied Intervention in South Russia, 1917-1921, 271. 


where he had been summoned by Red Army headquarters 
under the pretext to attend a military meeting. 

The Red Army now encircled Gulai-Polye itself. Through 
sheer luck Makhno and a small band succeeded in breaking 
out. For more than half a year he and his loyal followers 
roved through the country. Makhno was repeatedly wounded 
and spent much of his time flat in a carriage. As he 
himself writes more than once he owed his life to his 
"beloved Lewis boys" (operators of the Lewis machine- 
gun), who provided for his escape by selling their lives 
as dearly as they could. In June, 1921, his associate Tchus 
was killed in the course of an engagement with Red Army 
troops. Wounded, plagued by lack of food and drink 
and ammunition, Makhno made a dash for the Rumanian 
border. On August 28, 1921, he succeeded in crossing the 
Dniester river. 


7. Nestor Makhno, the Exile 

Makhno did not cross into Rumania alone. He had with 
him several of his followers. Galina Kuzmenko, who had 
been married to him since the summer of 1919, arrived a 
little later. The Rumanian government permitted Makhno 
and his wife to live in a private home in Bucharest, while 
Makhno's men were interned in camps. 1 One source 
implies that Makhno was not without means as one of his 
men, Koselsky, had succeeded in transferring some money 
and valuables from Russia to Bessarabia. At first the 
Rumanian government vacillated between sending Makhno 
out of the country or providing political asylum for 
him. As a result of the First World War Rumania had 
gained all of Bessarabia from Russia. The Red Army, 
flushed with its recent victories, was not yet demobilized, 
and Moscow might decide to press its claim to it.-' In 
such case it would be useful for Rumania to have for an 
ally an experienced guerilla leader like Makhno, especially 
since Bessarabia had a large Ukrainian minority. But the 
crisis passed. Since providing a domicile to Makhno 
could be interpreted as a provocation by the Soviets, the 
Rumanian authorities encouraged him to leave the country, 
and Makhno left for Poland on April 11, 1922. 

Poland had fought its own war with the Soviet Union, 
and though the two countries were now at peace, after the 
Treaty of Riga, signed on March 18, 1921. the Ukrainian 
populations of both Russia and Poland continued to wage 
a guerilla war, especially in the U.S.S.R. where the under- 


' Nedilia, No. 46. 1935; Volme. The Unknown Revolution. 216. 
Bessarabia, now known as the Republic of Moldavia, became a state of the 
USSR, in 1945. 


ground struggle continued until 1924. ; The Polish government 
interned Makhno and his party. Besides his few followers, 
Makhno had with him his wife and daughter, born to 
him in Rumania. The camp in which they were placed 
also held Ukrainian nationalist internees, but the relation- 
ship between the two parties was less than cordial. 

It is in the nature of prison camps that rumors, charges 
and counter-charges divide camps into hostile factions, and 
Makhno's presence did not contribute towards camp har- 
mony. One rumor, based on intercepted mail, had Makhno 
conspire with the Soviet government, and that he planned 
to lead the Galician (Ukrainian) peasants in an insurrection 
against Poland. Now the Galicians (Ukrainians) were less 
acquainted with the more destructive activities of Makhno 
than the Ukrainian nationalists, and there is evidence that 
they were not unfriendly to him. The charges consequently 
developed into a court case in which Makhno, however, was 
found innocent. But the Poles unquestionably found 
Makhno's presence in the country a liability. With its 
large hostile Ukrainian minority, Poland feared that a 
person with the leadership qualities of Makhno could provide 
the spark for a civil war in which the Soviets might inter- 
vene.' There is no source to indicate whether Makhno 
left Poland voluntarily or was "invited" to leave. 

Little is known about his brief stops at Danzig and Berlin, 
where he stayed before moving to Paris. In Gottingen, 
Germany, I interviewed Sister Frieda Franz, a former 
nurse at the Danzig City Hospital. A Mennonite, she had 
heard from Mennonites in transit from Russia to Canada 
about the activities of Makhno, when, to her surprise she 
found that man among her patients. Makhno was suffering 
from tuberculosis and had been brought in by the police, 
who regularly checked transients for communicable 
diseases. He spoke no German and Sister Franz did not 
recall any details except that he had been a very sick 

Cf. Ukraine: A Concise Encyclopedia, Vol. I. 768; see also: Alexander 
Udovychenko, Ukraina u Viini sa Derzhavnist (Ukraine In the War for Inde- 
pendence), Winnipeg, 1954. 3 Vols. 
'The "Polish" Ukraine was taken over by the Soviet Union in 1945 and 
became part of the Ukrainian S.S.R. 



Makhno's frustrating years of exile are described by 
his associate, Voline: 

Sick, and suffering bitterly from his many wounds, 
ignorant of the country's language and adapting himself 
with difficulty to surroundings which were so different 
from those he was accustomed to, he led in Paris a life 
which was as difficult materially as it was psychologically. 
His existence abroad was little more than a long and 
miserable agony, against which he was powerless to 
struggle. His friends helped him support the weight of 
these sad years of decline."' 

In the early 1920's May Picqueray, a militant anarcho- 
syndicalist, had formed in Paris a small mutual aid 
organization to help emigrant "comrades." When Makhno 
and his family arrived, she took them under her wing. "I 
sent them to some friends in the country," she writes in 
a letter, "where they remained for several days, after which 
we found for them a small place to stay in Paris. " ,; Mme 
Picqueray also organized, together with a friend, a "Makhno 
Committee" to solicit funds in France, Spain, but especially 
in the United States. Although he continued to live in 
great poverty, the monies collected provided Makhno with 
a very modest income for the rest of his life. Occasionally 
Makhno would work as a laborer at a plant or in a factory. 
Illness was one reason why he never hald a job very long, 
and he was frequently ill. At other times his old wounds 
would trouble him. Another reason was his inability to 
adjust to the alien environment, so different from his own. 
He never succeeded learning sufficient French to communi- 
cate coherently in that language. His approach to master 
French was unique, he set out to memorize the dictionary. 7 
His wife and daughter opened a small grocery store in 
Vincennes. There were long periods when Makhno and his 
wife lived separate lives, and though Makhno loved his 
daughter, she was almost a stranger to him. 

Makhno devoted much of his time to writing a history 
of his struggles and of the revolution in the Ukraine. In 

' Voline, The Unknown Revolution, 216. 

" Letter dated Paris, March 14, 1967. 

; Mme Ida Mett, in a letter dated Paris, April 30, 1967. 


time three small volumes appeared in print, the first ir 
Russian and French, the second and third in Russian only, 
after his death. Poorly educated, Makhno wrote laboriously 
and was unable to complete his account. But he was 
obsessed with the idea of completing it and even on his 
way to the hospital, where he died, he took with hir 
a "bag full of papers." Later these were to disappear 
mysteriously/ His former associates and "theoreticians" 
Arshinov and Voline, who, on leaving Russia, had gone 
to Berlin to edit a Russian-language anarchist paper 
(Arshinov's history of the Makhno movement first appearec 
in German and was published in Berlin, in 1923), nov 
moved to Paris where Arshinov started the Russiar 
anarchist organ Delo Truda (The Cause of Labor). Makhnc 
contributed many letters and appeals to its columns, anc 
for three years he was assisted in his writing by his friend, 
Ida Mett-Lazarevich. 

Makhno felt most at home in Paris when he could b« 
in a club or restaurant together with friends and fellov 
anarchists. Then new plans would be laid and old skirmishes 
and feuds would be fought all over again over a bottle of 
French wine. The anarchists, including Makhno, hatec 
Lenin and Stalin, but found Trotsky most odious, perhaps 
because so many knew him from his days in Paris anc 
regarded him as a renegade.' 1 Trotsky and Stalin had been 

"Letter from Daniel Guerin, dated Paris, April 25, 1967. 

■' Mme Picqueray's letter contains the following informative passage: 

"Makhno did not like Trotsky and with reason. For Trotsky, the 'superman' 
as he is called today by his followers in France and elsewhere, inordinately 
proud and spiteful, the polemicist and orator and military dictator contributed to 
the aberration of the Revolution. This man could not tolerate the existence of a 
free people, and an organization following the principles of Proudhon and 
Kropotkin rather than those of K. Marx. And for that reason he did not 
hesitate to have hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians killed, men, women and 
children and use the most perfidious methods to discredit and destroy Makhno 
in the eyes of the people and the soldiers, attributing to him the characteristics 
of a bandit, an anti-Semite, etc. Lenin was in complete agreement with Trotsky 
in this manner. 

"I personally knew Trotsky in Paris, before the Revolution. He would meet 
with the revolutionary students, of whom I was one, at the Cafe la Rotonde. 
I considered him intelligent but Machiavellian, ready to do anything to attain 
his goals. I saw him again in 1923, at the Second Syndicist Congress in Moscow, 
where I was a delegate with a mandate to oppose our merger with the Third 
International. In Berlin I made contact with A. Berkman and E. Goldman, who 
had returned from Russia and had given me numerous addresses of comrades 
living in hiding. I succeeded in contacting some, but others were in prisons. 


singled out for the Order of the Red Banner in November, 
1920, for their part in the Red Army's success in destroying 
Wrangel (and Makhno). Now the anarchists had the 
satisfaction of seeing Trotsky humbled by Stalin, and hoped 
that the latter's turn would follow. Apparently Makhno, 
however, did not retain the same animosity for another 
adversary, now his fellow-exile in Paris, Petlura, though 
many other anarchists, especially Jews, regarded him as 
a pogromist.'" One evening Makhno, May Picqueray, 
Alexander Berkman, Schwarzbart and others were eating 
at a Russian restaurant on the rue de I'Ecole de Medicine 
when Petlura entered. Schwarzbart, who came from Odessa, 
turned pale, but said nothing. Petlura was shot the following 
day, presumably by Schwarzbart. According to Ida Mett, 
Makhno expressed to her strong disapproval of the assassina- 

During the Revolution and later in Paris Makhno was 
often accused of being an anti-Semite and he spent much 
of his time refuting this charge. In a proclamation, during 

Among the latter, Mollie Steimer and her companion Senya Flechin, interned at 
a camp at Arkhangelsk, were scheduled for deportation to the Solovietsky 
Islands. I decided to make use of my position as a delegate to demand an 
audience with Trotsky. I obtained it after eight hours, and visited him at his 
office in the Kremlin. Because of the experiences of a previous delegation, our 
friends Lepetit, Vergeat and R. Lefebvre, who disappeared and who. we were to 
learn later, had drowned under mysterious circumstances while trying to return 
to France, a companion insisted that he accompany me. 

Trotsky received me very cordially, walked towards me, smi ling and extending 
his hand, but I pointedly put my hands in my pockets. He asked me why and 
I was unable to resist telling him that I could not shake the hand of him who 
had massacred Makhno's men and who was also responsible for the events at 
Kronstadt. To my great surprise he was not angry, at least if he was he 
did not show it. It was not very diplomatic on my part, as I had come to 
request the liberation of Mollie and Senya, but at that time I had a rather 
impetuous disposition and was agitated. I explained to him the reasons for 
my visit and told him that I had firmly decided not to leave Russia until they 
were free. My request was granted and I had the pleasure of seeing my 
friends freed and received them in Paris a short time later. He (Trotsky) did 
not do this for humanitarian reasons, for he was hard and ruthless, but the 
Lepetit- Vergeat affair had created a stir among the anarchists and syndicalists, 
and Trotsky was interested at that time to launch a new campaign for the 
support of the workers." 

'"Margolin, a Jew and a member of the Petlura government, places the pogroms 
in the Kherson province on "criminal elements" which the Ukrainian government 
was too weak to stop. See: Arnold D. Margolin, From a political Diary , pp. 38-39. 

"Simon Petlura was assassinated in 1926. In checking the police files I 
gained the impression that the police took only a mild interest in the feuds 
between the rival emigrant factions. Schwarzbart was acquitted by the Paris 
Court of Assizes. 



the Civil War, the Bolsheviks lumped together the Makhnov- 
shchina, the Petlurovshchina, banditry and anti-Semitism as 
allies of the kulaks. Makhno, in a proclamation which was 
widely circulated, admitted that there had indeed been 
cases in which the Insurgents had staged pogroms. He 
blamed "criminal elements" who had infiltrated his 
movement for the atrocities and appealed to his followers 
to remove such "stains and blemishes" from their ranks. 1 -' 
Makhno's language against anti-Semitism had been so 
strong that all he could do was to reiterate it again and 

The charge that Makhno was anti-Semitic was particu- 
larly resented by his Jewish supporters. In an interview 
one of them stated that Makhno could not entirely divorce 
himself from his peasant prejudices, such as anti-Semitism, 
but these should not be held against him. But even after 
his death articles appeared in the Anarchist press mar- 
shalling evidence that Makhno and his movement had not 
been anti-Semitic, that: 1) among his friends and sup- 
porters, in Gulai-Polye as in Paris, there had been a long 
list of Jews: Arshinov, Alexander Berkman, Voline, Schwarz- 
bart, Ida Mett-Lazarevich, Krasnopolsky, Aron Baron, 
Wishnevski and others; 2) the Anarchist Nabat organization 
in the Ukraine (Voline and Arshinov) consisted largely 
of Jews and remained loyal to Makhno to the end; 3) the 
commander of Makhno's artillery, Schneider, the vice-chair- 
man of the Gulai-Polye rayon soviet Kohan and other 
officials were Jews; 4) the Makhnovite newspapers Puit 
k Svobode (Road to Freedom) and Golos Makhnovtse (Voice 
of the Makhnovtse) often carried articles by Makhno in 
which he condemned anti-Semitism; 5) one meeting of 
volost representatives held at Gulai-Polye on March 7, 1919 
was directed against hate campaigns; 6) one reason 
Grigoriev was shot was that he had said many of the 
socialists and Bolsheviks who governed Ukraine were those 
"who had also crucified Christ,"; 7) finally, a commission 
consisting of Social Revolutionary (SR) representatives 
(Steinberg), Bundists, Mensheviks (Aronson) and Anarchists 

'-Both proclamations are reprinted under the heading "Documents for the 
Study of the Revolutionary Movement in Russia," in Volna (The Wave), No. 
58, October, 1924. 


had found that there was no evidence that the Makhno 
army as such committed pogroms, and that pogroms were 
committed not only by "White bandits" but also by the 
Red Army. l:! 

It may be relevant to point out that Jews played a 
very important role in all revolutionary activities in Russia. 
Suffering from discrimination, many Jews saw no 
alternative for gaining recognition but the overthrow of 
the tsarist regime and the defeat of counter-revolutionary 
parties. The result was a disproportionally large number of 
Jewish leaders were found in the ranks of the Anarchists, 
Social Revolutionaries, Mensheviks and Bolsheviks. This 
in turn sometimes contributed to anti-Semitism among 
parties dedicated to combat it. The problem was period- 
ically taken up by the Politburo. At its meeting on April 
18, 1919, with Lenin, Krestinski, Stalin and Trotsky 
present, there was a discussion of "Comrade Trotsky's state- 
ment that Latvians and Jews constituted a vast percentage 
of those employed in Cheka frontal zone units, Executive 
Committees in frontal zones and the rear, and in Soviet 
establishments at the centre; that the percentage of them 
at the front itself was a comparatively small one; that 
strong chauvinist agitation on this subject was being 
carried on among Red Army men and finding certain 
response there; and that, in Comrade Trotsky's opinion, 
reallocation of Party personnel was essential to achieve a 
more even distribution of Party workers of all nationalities 
between the front and the rear."" 

Certainly his Jewish friends in Paris behaved most 
compassionately to him. "In 1932 I spoke with Mrs. Maria 
Korn," writes Mme Ida Mett, "who entertained Makhno 
often, and she described the miserable poverty in which 
he lived; she asked me to make an X-ray examination of 
him because his lungs were getting worse." When Maria 
Isidorovna Goldschmid, better known as Maria Korn, for 
years a friend of Kropotkine, committed suicide a few 

; Cf. L. Lipotkin, "Nestor Makhno," Probuzhdenie, Nos. 50-51, 1934; G. Maksimov 
and Voline, "An Answer to the Slanderer," Delo Truda-Probuzhdenie, Sept., 
1956; Voline, The Unknown Revolution, 219-220. 

1 The Trotsky Papers, Vol. I, pp. 261 and 363. 


months before Makhno died, Makhno paid her a glowing 
tribute in an Anarchist paper. 

One of the more unsavory aspects of the Anarchist 
party in Paris was the bitter feuds which were carried 
out among the leaders. In one of these fratricidal disagree- 
ments Alexander Berkman, Emma Goldman and Voline set 
off a bitter campaign against Arshinov. Though Makhno, 
intellectually less versatile than his friends and by now 
less important, tried to remain aloof, he initially sided 
with Arshinov. They felt that the Anarchist ranks were 
too divided. But when in 1931 Arshinov advocated an 
Anarchist policy of recognition of the Stalin regime, Makhno 
deserted him. In 1934 Arshinov, frustrated by the dis- 
sension in the Anarchist camp, went to Russia and publicly 
endorsed the Soviet government. Three years later he 
disappeared in one of the Stalin purges. 

Plagued by party and family feuds, Makhno sought 
solace in drink. Respondents do not agree whether Makhno 
was an alcoholic or not, but one of his closest friends and 
defenders admits that "a single glass of wine would 
cause a great effect on him." During his last years he 
constantly thought back about his home, and to Mme 
Mett he once related a dream which had him back in the 
Ukraine, an ordinary peasant, married to a village girl, 
and in possession of a carriage and good horses. He was 
very tired of life and when he heard that his friend, 
Rogdaiev, had died in exile and was buried behind the 
Caspian Sea, he composed a tribute which he ended with 
these words: 

And you, dear friend, comrade and brother, sleep, 
even though it is a heavy sleep with no awakening, it 
is a peaceful sleep. 1 "' 


Makhno had planned to send the testimonial to ar 
anarchist paper, but he lacked the money for the postage, 
and it was mailed by his wife after his death. 

On July 25, 1934, at six o'clock in the morning, Nestor 
Makhno died at the Tenon hospital. About 500 mourners — 
French, Italian, Spanish and Russian anarchists and revolu- 

'•'■ Makhno, "At the New Grave of T. N. Rogdaiev," Probuzhdenie, Nos. 52-53, 



tionaries — followed the plain coffin to the Pere-Lachaise 
cemetery. The body was then burned at the crematorium 
and the urn holding the ashes was marked by a name plate. 
As Meleshko has pointed out, the hundreds of mourners 
included only two Ukrainians, his wife and his daughter. 



8. The Man and the Legend 

The life of Makhno, born in a peasant's cottage in 
Gulai-Polye and buried in a cemetery which at one time 
had been the estate of the Jesuit confessor to Louis XIV, was 
colorful enough. His years at the Butyrki prison would have 
been a credit card during and after the Revolution, which, 
together with his spectacular military exploits, might well 
have placed him beside the dashing Marshal Budyenney 
as a hero of the Red Army, taking review from Lenin's 
tomb on Red Square, if he had subordinated himself to the 
Bolshevik party and converted to its ideology. Instead he 
chose to challenge Lenin and Trotsky, as well as Denikin 
and Wrangel/Skoropadsky and Petlura, and anyone else 
who appeared on the scene. But the legend which was spun 
around him, even before his death, surpassed his own 
dreams. To many Ukrainians, and Russians, 1 Makhno and 
his Makhnovshchina came to represent the ultimate ideal 
of freedom, a return to the unencumbered free life of 
the Zaporozhian Cossack sich, where every man lived in 
a way and manner that pleased him, and where the only 
authority and discipline to which he had to submit was the 
categorical imperative inside himself. Sufficient time has 
passed to permit an evaluation of the man and the legend 

Some of the most penetrating insights into the man 
Makhno are provided by his two close associates and 
defenders of the Makhno movement, Arshinov and Voline. 
Arshinov says he knew three Makhnos: the Makhno in 
Butyrki prison, the Makhno who headed a small band of 
partisans, and Makhno, the commander of the Insurgent 

'According to Sir John Maynard (Russia in Flux, 211) even the Russian 
Alexander Herzen regarded the Zaporozhian sich as the most suitable form of 
state for the Slavic people. 





army. Arshinov also knew Makhno the exile, but since 
he was only the shell of his former self, Arshinov 
mercifully passes over this phase. The Makhno of Butyrki 
prison, where he spent many years with Arshinov, was 
excitable, intensely proud of being an Anarchist, a "loner" 
who spent most of his time writing proclamations and 
poetry. Makhno, the early partisan leader, had developed 
considerable self-assurance. He would discuss a course 
of action with his associates, withdraw and make a quick 
decision which might make the difference between life and 
death for all of them. Moreover, he had become "im- 
mensely popular among the peasants" (Arshinov). But the 
great transformation, according to Arshinov, took place 
after the spring of 1919. He had become a strange, 
different person, displaying unusual cunning, will power 
and "colossal reserves of energy;" he would spend hours 
in the saddle, or on a carriage when wounded, work on 
his plans until one o'clock at night, and between five 
and six in the morning he would make the rounds, tapping 
on the windows to wake his staff. Between these strenuous 
hours he found time to be present at some peasant wedding 
or anniversary celebration. 

Obstacles spurred him on to greater efforts. Friends 
could be killed around him, but he remained calm as though 
it did not concern him. An observer could have taken his 
unusual composure under such circumstances for the com- 
posure of one demented, writes Arshinov, "but to the initiated 
it reflected Makhno's will to win." As to his followers, 
Makhno's peasant cunning, his talent for war, and his 
resourcefulness made him a hero. He was their batko, 
who did not disdain to share a brandy with them, who 
fired their imagination by an outburst of earthy oratory 
and who took the lead in an attack. Makhno's person 
provided the cement that bound the movement together, 
and his humblest followers as well as his commanders 
sometimes felt "the strong hand of the leader." By 1920 
an additional name of endearment was added to batko, it 
was maly, "The Little One." 

But even the uncritical Arshinov, who wrote his account 
in 1921 when the events were almost too fresh in his 
memory, found that Makhno had some flaws, that he 


lacked a basic education and insight, that the movement 
which he led required its own social-revolutionary ideological 
framework, which Makhno was unable to supply. Further- 
more, Makhno, even in times of serious crises, often dis- 
played a "heedlessness," a "frivolity" which was "in- 
compatible with the gravity of the situation." 

While Voline concurs with Arshinov on many points 
and concedes that Makhno had the traits of a leader and 
that he was better suited than anyone else to head the 
movement because "he was simpler, bolder, more comrade- 
ly and more of a peasant," he also draws attention to 
facets of Makhno's character which made him not only 
the terror of Ukraine but also the terror of his followers. 
"His greatest fault," writes Voline, "was certainly the 
abuse of alcohol."- Under its influence he would become 
"over-excited, mischievous, unjust, intractible and violent." 
"Often, during my stay with the army," continues the 
same writer "I left him in despair, unable to get anything 
reasonable out of him even when matters of some importance 
were concerned, because of his abnormal condition. (At 
certain periods, indeed, it became almost his 'normal' 
condition!)" In a letter to me Mme Mett disputes Voline's 
characterization: "You migh-t say that he drank in the same 
proportion that all Ukrainian peasants drink — that is, on 
such occasions as festivals, celebrations, etc." But there is 
overwhelming evidence that Voline knew Makhno better 
than Mme Mett. Though the latter also came from Russia, 
she had not met Makhno until he came to Paris. 

Makhno's second flaw, which, according to Voline, he 
shared with "many of his intimates," was their "behaviour 
towards women." He refers to their indulgence as 
"shameful" and "odious" and speaks of "orgies" and "acts 
of debauchery" which not only "produced a demoralizing 
effect," but also "led inevitably to other excesses and 
abuses." Voline also speaks of a "camarilla about Makhno" 
which made the decisions and ignored the elected council. 
He paints a picture of a drunk Makhno entering a council 

-Voline. The Unknown Revolution. 226. The anarchist journalist Augustm 
Souchy. who writes that he associated almost daily with Makhno when the 
latter spent some time in Berlin, maintains that he "never saw Makhno drunk.'' 
Der Spiegel. 47. 1969. 




session, with drawn revolver, and pointing it at the gather- 
ing. Voline hastens to add that this behaviour was com- 
pensated by other qualities, but it is the recklessly and 
irresponsibly violent Makhno whom tens of thousands of 
people of the Ukraine of all nationalities, classes and 
occupations, not excluding many humble peasants, remem- 

Since in Voline's description of Makhno we have the 
analysis of a sympathetic associate, but not one of his 
intimates, as we shall see later, there is not much for his 
adversaries to add. Physically Makhno was a small man, 
about five feet four inches, weighing less than 150 pounds.- 
In 1919 his clean-shaven face already had a sickly sallow 
complexion, the mark of the consumptive and the man 
who had spent years behind prison walls. "On first im- 
pression," says one account, "he did not look like an 
ataman at all; he looked too weakly and thin." Describing 
the man she learned to know in Paris, Mme Mett said 
that if one didn't know who he was, one could pass close 
to him without noticing him. He was, however, a vain man. 
In the earlier years he wore his dark hair to his shoulders, 
and he and his friends would visit the hairdresser and 
have their hair set. Though Makhno was not the dandy 
that his close friend Tchus was, he liked stylish clothes. 
When Meleshko visited him in Gulai-Poyle he wore the 
uniform and crest of a law student. 

When the Makhnovtse occupied Katerinoslav and 
began to plunder the city they did not even miss the 
museums and laboratories, where they drank the methyl 
alcohol and stole the mineral collections, thinking the 
latter might contain precious stones. The students were 
especially aroused when they witnessed the mistreatment 
of a fellow-student, an invalid, and they sent a delegation 
of student anarchists to Makhno. A member of the delegation 
many years later described the meeting in an Anarchist 

"Makhno did not act like a batko ("Father"). We were 
afraid, but Makhno shook hands with us, and was very 

Mme Picqueray, in her letter, writes: "Makhno was about 1 m 65 cm tall. 
When I knew him in 1923 he did not weigh more than 60 kgs." 


friendly. I took a close look at the room of Nestc 
Ivanovich. He sat behind a large desk, on the desk lay 
a pistol and two hand-grenades and a box with the field- 
telephone with wires going into the next room and from 
there into the garden. Near the desk was a small table 
with a pot of tea, glasses and the left-overs of breakfast. 
Makhno was small, but his hair was a regular mane. 
He had on a trench-coat with shoulder straps. An 
adjutant remained in the room to take notes." 1 

The students presented their complaint and Makhno ex- 
plained how difficult it was to keep his men from plunder, 
though he had many of them hanged for this offense. He 
promised that he would look into the students' complaint, 
if the students in turn would endorse anarchism. Neither 
side was troubled with the promise for long; Makhno left 
the city after a few days. The same writer, however, 
also mentions Tchus's unusual mode of dress: a brilliant 
corsair's uniform, a sailor's cap, a Caucasian dagger on 
the side and behind his belt pistols and hand grenades. 

Makhno appears to have had a yearning for the 
unusual, the exotic, and his marriage to Galina Andreyevna 
Kusmenko provided an appropriate occasion for one of those 
colorful celebrations he enjoyed. We have the account 
of Fedor Meleshko, whose wife and Galina Kusmenko 
had been students at a teachers' seminary at Dobrovelich- 
kino."' Later Galina Andreyevna went to Gulai-Polye, teach- 
ing Ukrainian history and Ukrainian at the newly formed 
Ukrainian State Gymnasium there. Her first letters to her 
friends had carried an ominous note; "A bandit by the 
name of Makhno has made his appearance here. He raids 
the homes of wealthy people, the clergy and the intel- 
ligentsia. He robs and kills. We are very much afraid 
of him. As soon as darkness sets in we stay away from 
the streets. We lock the doors and close the shutters 
to blackout our homes." Then, quite unexpectedly, in the 
summer of 1919, Makhno married Galina. The wedding 
took place in Pishchaney-Brod, where Galina Andreyevna's 

'B.T., "Remembering Makhno", Delo Truda-Probuzhdenie, Nos. 41-42, 1953. 
•F. Meleshko, "Nestor Makhno ta yoho anarkhia," Chervona Kalina (1935). 
Dobrovelichkino is a village in the Yelisovetgrad okruga, Kherson. 




father was the village uriadnik (official). Despite their 
anarchist convictions Makhno and his bride wanted to 
have the wedding take place in church. The "sons of the 
batko ("Father")" had spread carpets from the Kusmenko 
home to the church, a distance the couple walked on 
foot. All the brandy in the district was "mobilized" 
and there was a celebration such as the village had never 
seen and would not likely see again. There was music, 
dancing and merry-making to mark the occasion on which 
"the sons gave away their father in marriage." 

Some time after the wedding Galina invited Meleshko 
and his wife to dine with her and Makhno. The invitation 
was more like a summons, though it also contained the 
assurance of a safe-conduct. They were courteously re- 
ceived at the Makhno home, where they had cherry-filled 
vareniki with honey for dinner. No drinks were served, 
Makhno explaining that he did not touch liquor and that 
he had outlawed drinking in his army. Meleshko expresses 
the opinion that from time to time Makhno apparently 
turned teetotaler, but that these periods did not last long. 
He also mentions that Galina was by a head-length taller 
than her husband. Makhno did most of the talking, and his 
favorite topic was Makhno, according to Meleshko. All 
accounts agree that Galina Andreyevna was a genuine 
Ukrainian idealist and patriot, and she may have felt that 
by marrying Makhno she could interest him in Ukrainian 
aspirations for independence. At the same time she 
unquestionably enjoyed her role as Matushka ("Mother") 
Makhno. She would make her visits in a coach drawn 
by four black horses, and these would be covered, as was 
the custom in Russia, by white silk nets. 

In later years Galina Kusmenko denied that she and 
Makhno had had a church wedding, but this may have 
been because among the sophisticated anarchists of Paris 
a church wedding would seem out of place. Nor was Galina 
the only woman in the life of Makhno, either in Gulai- 
Polye or in Paris. Even the diary of Fedora Gaenko, 
published in the Soviet Union to discredit Makhno as a 
harmonica-playing drunkard, may very well have been 
written by a former marital comrade of Makhno. 

Perhaps Makhno's most outstanding characteristic was 


his uncontrolled impulsiveness. Arshinov relates how 
Makhno, travelling to Gulai-Poyle to meet Lev Kamenev, 
stepped out of the railway coach at Vershnei-Tokmak and 
saw a crude billboard reading "Kill the Jews! Save the 
Revolution! Long Live Batko Makhno!" Infuriated, Makhno 
demanded that the responsible culprit be brought before him. 
The young lad, one of Makhno's followers, was found 
and taken before Makhno. He admitted that he had tacked 
up the placard, but had not written it. Makhno accepted 
no excuses; the man was shot.' 1 Even in exile Makhno 
retained his excitable temperament, and in a letter to 
me, Mr. Guerin, the French writer, says that it was general- 
ly supposed that a wound on Galina's throat had been 
inflicted by Makhno. These examples are not isolated cases. 
Repeatedly Makhno would make unpremeditated and hasty 
decisions affecting even the survival of his followers. The 
only comfort they had was a willingness on the part of 
Makhno to share the risks. He was no coward. But his own 
men lived in constant fear of him. Two of his commanders, 
Bogdanov and Lashkovitz, were executed for war profiteering. 
They had collected requisitions in the name of the army 
and spent the money on themselves, an offense which was 
rather common among the Makhnovtse. 

We have no medical reports on Makhno, but Meleshko, 
who had a chance to observe him over a period, says that 
Makhno was possibly mentally ill, and that his "miracles" 
— all his successes were of a very temporary nature — 
can be partly attributed to this state. Meleshko also observed 
that Makhno could tolerate no equal around him, and since 
he was accountable to no one he would liquidate anyone 
who remotely challenged his authority. And indeed, at no 
time did Makhno have close friends. He he\fi companions 
who fought and drank with him and he had his 
"theoreticians" whom he bullied and openly insulted, 
possibly because of a deep-seated feeling of inferiority. 

Ostensibly the whole Makhno movement was directed 
by a Revolutionary War Council composed of twelve men. 
Among the villagers they were sometimes known as 
"Monk Nestor's Twelve Apostles." Initially the entire group 

'■ Arshinov, Geschichte der Machno-Bewegung , 260-261. 


was made up of swordsmen who were at their best when 
they could head an expedition and raid some village or 
khutor. They would meet on the village green or on the 
square before the church when the weather permitted, or 
in the school or some larger house when it rained or when 
it was too cold to meet outside. Theoretically Makhno acted 
on orders of this Revolutionary Council, but as Karpo, a 
council 'member, once remarked to Meleshko, if anyone 
dared to question Makhno's orders he would have been shot. 
Later the membership of the Council changed somewhat 
when Voline, Archinov, Baron and others were added. While 
the Revolutionary War Council gained in respectability 
by this, its function remained unchanged. It was a rubber- 
stamp for Makhno. 

Voline and Arshinov, by far the most intelligent of 
Makhno's followers, worked tirelessly as cultural officers, 
publishing papers and manifestos. Voline especially seems 
to have been obsessed with a deep hatred of Trotsky, with 
whom he had a running feud in his paper, Nabat (The 
Alarm), Trotsky replying in kind through the Bolshevik 
press. There were also numerous meetings, held before 
village peasants or in the army, at which Makhno would 
generally give the main talk while his council stood near 
the platform. 7 Makhno, who would become very emotional 
but was otherwise no great orator, would develop his 
theme in short, staccato sentences. His message was that 
people were by nature anarchists, and that anarchy was 
the state for which Ukrainians especially were suited, 
that cities were a violation of natural law, that man 
should live as a social being in villages on the steppes 
or in forests, that Denikin as well as the Bolsheviks were 
counter-revolutionaries who wanted to impose their order 
on the peasantry. 

When he had finished Makhno would step back and for 
a few minutes he would listen in a half-bored, half- 
mocking manner as Voline, who generally followed him 
as a speaker, would speak on the nature and goal of 
anarchism in carefully structured sentences. Long before 
Voline would launch into the body of his speech, Makhno 

r Cf. Nedilia, No. 45, 1935. 


would leave. Accounts have it that Voline, though some- 
what volatile on the platform, was an excellent speaker 
and most effective at meetings. Apparently also Makhno 
felt a satisfaction in associating with intellectuals like 
Voline and Arshinov who gave his movement a semblance 
of respectability. Later, in Paris, differences developed 
between Makhno and Voline. Mme Mett, in a letter to me, 
defends Makhno's position, but unwittingly she also supports 
the evidence that in Gulai-Polye Makhno was the unchal- 
lenged dictator. She writes: "Voline criticized Makhno 
when he had emigrated, whereas in the Ukraine he would 
not have dared to open his mouth to express an opinion, if 
he had one." Death, however, joined the two revolution- 
aries. When Voline died in September, 1945, he too was 
buried at the Pere-Lachaise cemetery. 

Voline (V. M. Eichenbaum) and a number of the other 
anarchist intellectuals who supported Makhno, were Jews. 
Though the majority of the Makhnovtse were Ukrainians, 
there were also Poles, Germans, Greeks and numerous 
Russians among them. Makhno had no chauvinistic feelings 
and barely a trace of Ukrainian nationalism in him. 
Because thousands of Jews were killed many of them 
believed Makhno was a pogromist. While it hardly mattered 
to the victims, the reasoning was fallacious. The Ukraine 
had many poor Jews, but it had also many affluent and 
even very wealthy Jews. They formed a large sector of 
the urban middle class. Consequently, when the Makhnovites 
occupied a city the shops of Jewish shopkeepers and tailors 
and the homes of Jewish doctors, dentists and photo- 
graphers, provided rich rewards. The owners were 
liquidated. *■ 

Similarly many Germans felt that Makhno was a 
victim of the vipious anti-German propaganda which the 
war had released, and that was why the German Catholic, 
Lutheran and Mennonite villages were plundered and 
burned and the people slaughtered. There is every 
evidence that as far as Makhno was concerned the severe 
attack on the German settlements was not undertaken 
because they were German. There are two reliable reports 
that when the war broke out the national feeling in Russia 
ran so high that even the inmates of Butyrki prison 


became feverishly patriotic. Makhno almost risked his life 
denouncing this sentiment, declaring that the enemy was 
not without but within, that it was tsarist despotism 
and capitalism that was the enemy of the people. He did 
this at a time when even his idol, Kropotkin, turned 
mildly nationalistic. Makhno directed those expeditions 
to the German volosts not out of blind hatred for the 
German colonists but because their villages were wealthier 
than the Ukrainian villages, whose turn came later. In the 
German villages there were more horses and hogs in the 
barns, more lard and hams in the pantries, more white 
flour and sunflower oil in their storerooms, more fur coats 
and carpets in the homes. It was for these that their owners 
were tortured and killed, so that they would not identify 
anyone when the "Reds" (Bolsheviks) or "Whites" oc- 
cupied the region. Makhno came to regard anyone who 
was not with him as his enemy, and one of the cruel 
jokes he would repeat was that the "Reds" should be 
flogged until they turned white, and the "Whites" until 
they turned red. The Russian or Ukrainian landowners, 
shopowners and propertied peasants fared little better than 
the Jews and the Germans. 

At the beginning of his activities Makhno appears not 
to" have displayed a special hostility to the clergy. 
Meleshko even reports that he showed an inclination to be 
quartered in a priest's home. Later he identified the clergy 
with the counter-revolutionaries and they were classified 
together with officers and kulaks, and liquidated. It appears 
that initially the village priests, like the teachers, identified 
themselves with the social goals of the Makhnovshchina 
but were soon repelled by the bloody -course it took. A 
typical treatment of a captured priest is related by 
Voline, with not a touch of disapproval. The priest, accused 
of being an informer, was first interrogated and flogged. 
Voline, who was present, describes the priest's end: 

The priest said no more. "Are there any peasants here 
to defend this man?" asked the insurgent. "Does anyone 
doubt his guilt?" No one moved. 

Then the insurgent seized the pope. Brutally he took 
off his cassock. "What fine cloth!" he said. "With this, 
we can make a beautiful black flag. Ours is all worn out." 


Then he said to the pope, "Now get on your knees anc 
say your prayers without turning round." 
The condemned man did so. He went down on his 
knees and with folded hands began to murmur. "Our 
Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Th\ 
kingdom come . . ." Two insurgents came up behind 
him. They drew their revolvers, aimed and fired several 
bullets into his back. The shots rang out, dry and 
implacable. The body fell over. It was finished. The 
crowd disbanded slowly, talking about the event." 

As an anarchist Makhno had few qualms about the 
complexities of an anarchist society. He had studiec 
Bakunin, who held that cities and large scale moderr 
industries were artificial and corroded human values, anc 
Kropotkin, who taught that individuals should be the judge 
of their requirements in a society of plenty. 1 ' These became 
Makhno's axioms, or rather they articulated what he anc 
many peasants felt would establish a truly just system. 
Makhno rejected "conference tables" and the "scribblings 
of intellectuals." According to him, one action outweighec 
all their words. He also rejected the communism of the 
Bolsheviks. "It would be the greatest folly to dispossess 
the peasants," he wrote in 1928 in the Anarchist orgar 
Delo Truda, "and create a barrack society." Instead all 
land should belong to the peasants, those who worked it, 
communally. Again and again he reiterated that the 
peasants needed no state. It is entirely possible that 
Makhno did not realize the terror his name inspired. 
Reportedly Pancho Villa's widow on one occasion deniec 
that her husband had committed atrocities: "If he didn't 
like you, he'd pull out his gun and shoot you." That was 
all. Nestor Makhno behaved very much in the same 
manner, He was hardly aware that he spread havoc, 
death and destruction; he thought he was building a nev 

While one associate of Makhno later regretted "that 
the moral qualities of Makhno himself and of many of his 
friends and collaborators were not entirely equal to the 

* Voline, The Unknown Revolution, 153-154. 

• Cf. Avrich, The Russian Anarchists, pp. 25-29. 



strains that were imposed upon them" (Voline), another 
close friend, Arshinov, felt that Makhnovism itself represented 
a "universal and immortal" idea. "Wherever the laboring 
masses do not let themselves be subjugated," he wrote, 
"wherever they cultivate the love of independence, wherever 
they concentrate and express their class will and spirit, 
they will always create their own popular social movements, 
they will act according to their own understanding. That 
is what constitutes the real essence of Makhnovism." Indeed, 
it would be premature to underestimate the impact of 
Makhnovite anarchism. More than three decades after 
Makhno's death, one of his admirers, Cohn-Bendit, 
called it "a great liberating force." 1 " It was the feverish 
agitation and activity of the same Cohn-Bendit that shook 
the pedestal of Charles de Gaulle and rocked France. 

Nor was Makhno's willingness to ally himself with all 
and sundry population elements, including criminals, 
inconsistent with the revolutionary program advocated by 
his great ideal, Bakunin. As early as 1869 Bakunin, together 
with S. Nechaev, drafted a Revolutionary Catechism in 
which they laid down the "principles of revolution." 
Bakunin maintained that: 

•Brigandage is one of the most honoured aspects of the 
people's life in Russia . . . The brigand in Russia is 
the true and only revolutionary, without phrase-making, 
without bookish rhetoric. Popular revolution is born from 
the merging of the revolt of the brigand with that of 
the peasant . . . Even today this is still the world of 
the Russian revolution; the world of brigands and the 
world of brigands alone has always been in harmony 
with the revolution. The man who wants to make a 
serious conspiracy in Russia, who wants a popular 
revolution, must turn to that world and fling himself 
into it. 

The revolutionary despises and hates present-day social 
morality in all its forms ... he regards everything 
as moral which helps the triumph of revolution . . . 
All soft and enervating feelings of friendship, relation- 

1 Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Gabriel Cohn-Bendit, dbsolete Communism: The 
Left-Wing Alternative, New York, 1968, 220. 


ship, love, gratitude, even honour, must be stifled 
him by a cold passion for the revolutionary cause 
Day and night he must have one thought, one aim - 
merciless destruction. 

We recognize no other activity but the work of extermina- 
tion, but we admit that the forms in which this activity 
will show itself will be extremely varied — poison, the 
knife, the rope, etc. In this struggle, revolution sanctifies 
everything alike." 

If Bakunin expressed the latent feeling of many 
people of the old Russian empire, then to them Makhno 
must have appeared as the executor of history. 

Makhno's activities were so unusual and spectacular 
that almost from the beginning the man and his exploits 
became themes for poetry and romantic narratives. 
Makhnovite poetry and songs will not be discussed in this 
monograph, but the poem "Song of the Makhnovtse," by 
Ivan Kartachov, which appeared in Probuzhdenie (The 
Awakening), Nos. 56-57, 1935, is an example of the 
revolutionary note that was common to them: 

Through the forests and over hills, 
on tachankas along the river 
in endless lines 
move the peasants. 

At the head rides grim Makhno, 
thefighting inspirer. ^ 

His clarion call sweeps 
the insurgents along: 

"Arise, you who starve, 
destroy the evil Kadets 
who want to take the freedom 
of the working masses. 

"We stand for equality and brotherhood, 
for freedom and the Soviets. 
We are the homeless and the hungry 
we fight against the bourgeoisie. 

1 1 Quoted. James Joll, The Anarchists, 95. 


"In the end we shall conquer: 
Our strength is the people, 
ourcause isjustice, 
Forward, all workers!" 

An early Ukrainian Nationalist army intelligence report 
said that among those peasants whose villages were most 
remote from Makhno's area of operation he was most 
popular, but as one came closer to his base his popularity 
decreased, and that in his home territory even the peasants 
who supported him in time found his pace and excesses 
oppressive. Thus it was not surprising that the first 
literary account of the Makhnovshchina was not written by 
a Ukrainian from Zaporozhye or Katerinoslav, but by an 
admirer from Galicia. '- During the Revolution it appeared 
as if Galicia would be able to return "home," and be 
joined to Ukraine proper. On their first encounter with 
Eastern Ukrainians the members of the Galician army 
saw in every Zaporozhian a blood-brother. In September, 
1919, M. Irchan, the press officer of a Galician brigade, 
visited the Makhnovtse, who were dejected and mellowed 
after a long retreat, and what he saw enthralled him. 
Irchan described the Makhnovtse, but the picture that 
emerged resembled more a cossack camp of the sixteenth 
century than the Insurgent army. The writer captures the 
atmosphere by beginning with a portrayal of the moonlit 
countryside and a ride across the steppes, where the 
bundles of harvested grain stand like silent sentinels. Not 
without danger he reaches the villages: 

Peasants stood in front of their houses and children 
played on the streets. Only at one khata did I see some 
men dressed in uniforms. The group stood at the gate, 
and the men were dressed in black shirts, open at the 
neck. Many telephone wires led to the house. It was 
the telephone station of the staff. My carriage stopped 
at the school. The driver got off and I followed. We 
entered a large room. In it there were about ten to 

■M. Irchan, "Makhno e Makhnivtsi" (Makhno and the Makhnovtse), Chervona 
Kalina (1936). Irchan was the pseudonym for M. Babiuk, who emigrated to 
Canada, lived in Winnipeg for some time, then returned to Russia in the early 
1930's, where he disappeared. 



twenty men, sitting on benches and desks. Some rested 
their heads on their hands, others sat bent over and 
silent. Their expressions were gloomy and morose. No 
one paid any attention to us until my driver introduced 
me in a deep voice, "This man is interested in our 
history. He has come to us to observe our way of life." 
After this introduction I bowed and all responded with 
a bow on their part. I approached each one of them and 
extended my hand, and each one in turn pressed my 
hand. They were firm, dark and hairy hands. A few of 
them had some fingers missing. I felt as if I had 
submerged into an enchanted world. Before me were 
gruesome figures, disorderly attired, with black, grey 
and red caps, uncombed tousled hair, sinister faces. 
"To get to know us, comrade," a voice out of corner 
said, "you'd have to live with us for some time." "It's 
wonderful, wonderful," piped out a woman's voice. 

The writer continues in this vein. He is particularly 
impressed with Makhno, and one senses that he feels here is 
a modern counterpart to Taras Bulba, ready to fight Pole, 
Turk or Russian: A troop of men on horseback precede 
about twenty paces a carriage drawn by three magnificent 
horses; the coachman has a cap made of a rich red 
material such as is more generally used as covering for 
expensive furniture, in his belt and in his boot-tops he 
carries pistols; in the carriage sits Batko Makhno, grey 
cap, long hair, clean and sober face, «in a blue jacket 
trimmed in black and cut in the fashion of a hussar's 
uniform, with a black belt and gorgeous boots; with him 
are two companions, at their feet lie two machine guns, 
behind them is another troop of horsemen. 

To Irchan, who saw heaps of war booty and beautiful 
women in Makhno's camp, and who was told that sometimes 
the Makhnovtse shot their own badly wounded comrades 
rather than have them taken prisoner, the whole strange 
world looked like a resurrection of the past and assumed 
an aura of glamor. But Makhno's trail was too bloody, 
his violence too frightening to permit him entry into the 
Ukrainian shrine of legendary heroes. Instead he turned 
into a peasant villain. As such he appears in numerous 


stories and novels. One of the literary most appealing of 
these is Oless Gonchar's "Chernei Koster" (The Black 
Fire).' 3 

The story begins with Makhno driving through Blumental, 
one of the German settlements, when he stops to chat with 
a Ukrainian boy who is tending geese near the wayside. 
Makhno finds that the boy's name is Yegor, that he works 
for the German kulak Heinrichs and that his father was 
killed in the war. The boy's story recalls in Makhno 
memories of his own childhood and he asks Yegor to join 
him on his carriage. They are heading for Katerinoslav. 
The evenings are spent by Makhno and his companions by 
discussing the life of the early cossacks. One of them men- 
tions the name of Professor Yavornitsky who has spent 
years in research on cossack life and in excavating 
kurgane, ancient burial mounds, from which he had 
collected great treasures for his museum. 

One evening when the Makhnovtse prepare to camp 
on the shallow banks of the Dnieper Makhno incites them 
to action by pointing out the distant gold-covered cathedral 
spires. They storm the place, enter the cathedral, destroy 
or plunder the interior and robe themselves in the priests' 
vestments. The priest on duty hides for he has heard how 
another priest, at Sinelnikovo, was tossed alive into the 
furnace of a locomotive. As one of the Makhnovtse prepares 
to set the church on fire a firm voice orders all of them to 
cease their vandalism. It is Yavornitsky. 

Then the two men meet, the powerfully-built but 
unarmed scholar and the small, boyishly slender partisan 
chieftain, whose long sword reaches to the floor. The latter 
is impressed by Yavornitsky's courage and asks him 

'Oless Gonchar, "Chernei Koster," Literaturnaya Gaseta, Moscow, No. 47. 
November 22, 1967. The translation from Ukrainian into Russian is by K. 
Grigoriev. The story is based on a historical incident, the confrontation 
between Makhno and the Ukrainian historian and anthropologist Dmitro 
Ivanovich Yavornitsky (1855-1940). The Ukrainian form of the name Yavornitsky 
is Yavornenko. As such he appears in a novel by Wasyl Chaplenko, Na 
Ukraine (The Ukrainians), first published in Russia in 1919. Selections from 
it appeared in a booklet published in Argentina in 1922, which was available to 
me. Here too the meeting between the scholar and Makhno takes place and 
Professor Chaplenko. who now makes his home in New York, assures me in a 
letter that the meeting as he describes it is historically authentic. Though 
Gonchar does not state his source for the main incident, it is reasonable to 
assume that he read Chaplenko 's novel. Chaplenko is also the author of a poetic 
cycle Issko Gava, (New York, 1965), which also deals with the Makhnovshchina. 


whether he disagrees with the ideals of anarchism. What 
kind of ideals are those if they can only be realized 
over corpses and destruction, retorts the professor. The 
Makhnovtse are surprised that Makhno carries on a 
discussion with a man who is obviously a counter- 
revolutionary. Makhno hesitates, then gives the boy Yegor 
a pistol and orders him to shoot the scholar. But the heavy 
pistol slips out of Yegor's hand. Magnanimously Makhno 
pardons both, the boy and the scholar, and then asks about 
the "elixir of life," a potent flask of vodka which 
Yavornitsky supposedly had found in a Zaporozhian burial 
mound and which he had refused to serve the Tsar on 
his visit to the museum. Makhno asks whether Yavornitsky 
would let him, Makhno, taste from it. The scholar skillfully 
evades an answer by saying that it does not belong to him, 
the content of the museum is the property of the people. 

Again a discussion ensues in which Makhno's position 
evokes a comparison between the Makhnovtse and the 
Cossacks. The scholar looks at the men around him and 
replies that it would seem that while the weapons had 
become bigger and heavier, the people had become 
smaller. Makhno understands. That night, as he restlessly 
tosses in his bed he pledges that he will haul down the 
cathedral bells. 




The Makhnovshchina 1 

The Makhnovshchina was a counter-revolutionary armec 
struggle of anarchist-/avM bands in the Ukraine, in 1918-21, 
against the Soviet government. The Makhno bands were 
led by N. I. Makhno (1889-1934). In 1907 Makhno received 
a life sentence of hard labor for burglary, having robbed 
the city-treasury of Berdiansk; after his return to his home 
village of Gulai-Polye (Ekaterinoslavskaia gubernia) in the 
autumn of 1917, he worked in the volost and committee. 
For a period in the summer of 1918 Makhno led a partisan 
campaign against the landowners, the regime of the Hetman 
and against the German occupation. With the restoration 
of the Soviet government in the Ukraine, at the beginning 
of 1918, he took a decisively hostile position against the 
dictatorship of the proletariat by leading the counter-revolu- 
tionary movement of kulaks, recruited from the Ukrainian 
peasants. The ringleaders of the Makhnovshchina — kulaks 
social-revolutionaries, anarchists and White guardists — 
tried with every means (lies, slander, provocation) to 
deceive the peasant masses, to undermine their confidence 
in the Soviet government, and to incite the Ukrainian 
working peasant against it. Makhno and his hacks employed 
treacherous tactics. The Makhnovtse would change their 
colors depending on the war situation or on political 
circumstances. They either took a waiting position, in the 
hope that the Soviet government would be defeated in its 
struggle against the foreign armies and their hirelings, the 
White Guard generals, or they would wage, under the 
pressure of the growing revolutionary movement of the 
masses, a guerilla war against the units of the White 
guardists. At such time they would feign penance, would 

1 Bolshaya Sovetskaya Encyclopedia (The Great Soviet Encyclopedia). Moscow, 
1954, XXVI. 548 



recognize in words the Soviet government and in isolated 
cases would even fight on the side of the Red Army, but 
usually they would quite unexpectedly betray an exposed 
section of the Soviet-held front, and would make common 
cause with Denikin, Wrangel, and other hangmen of the 
Entente, against the Soviet troops. Makhno's combat groups 
consisted mostly of cavalry divisions with subunits on 
machine-gun mounted carriages, which gave them excep- 
tional mobility and maneuverability. 

The atrocities committed by the Makhnovtse against 
the people, against the Communist Party and against the 
Soviet government soon opened the eyes of even the most 
backward segments of the working people as to the true 
nature of the Makhnovshchina as an enemy of the people. 
As a result of concerted efforts by which the Bolsheviks 
exposed the Makhnovshchina, some Makhno-units left 
Makhno and attached themselves to the Red Army. Greatly 
reduced units of the Makhnovtse, which were largely com- 
posed of anarchists, social-revolutionaries, kulaks and 
questionable and criminal rabble, foraged through the 
provinces of Ekaterinoslav, Poltava and Charkhov, and 
occupied themselves with open political brigandage. They 
raided small, isolated groups of the Red Army, the militia, 
reinforcements units, organized bloodbaths, and robbed and 
massacred the people. In 1921 the Soviet armies liquidated 
the Makhno bands. Makhno fled the country. 

Raiding the Police Archives 

Nestor Makhno 1 

Meanwhile the officials in charge of Gulai-Polye, Lieu- 
tenant Kudinov and his secretary, the old unwavering kadet 
A. Rambievski, invited me to help them raid the police 
archives of Gulai-Polye. 

These archives were of a very special interest to me, and 
I asked our group to let me take part in it. I accorded 

Makhno, Russkaya Revolutsia na Ukraina (The Russian Revolution in the 
Ukraine), Paris. 1929. Makhno describes his activity in Gulai-Polye immediately 
after returning there in 1917. 


such importance to this job that I was ready to abandon for 
the moment all other activity. Some of my comrades in the 
group, Kalinichenko and Krate in particular, began to tease 
me and said that I had become one who was willing to aid 
the police. It was only after a prolonged discussion that 
Comrade Kalinichenko became convinced that I had reasons 
(for going), and came with me himself. In the archives we 
found documents showing who, among the inhabitants of 
Gulai-Polye, had informed on the brothers Semeniuta, and 
other members of the group, and how much these dogs had 
received for their services. 

We discovered, among other things, that Peter Charovsky, 
a veteran of our group, had been an agent of the secret 
police, to whom he had rendered many services. 

I communicated the contents of the documents to our 
group. Unfortunately all the people (mentioned) in them had 
been killed in the war. There remained only Sopliak, 
Charovsky, and the policemen Onikhchenko and Bugaev, 
who, during their off-duty hours, dressed in civilian clothes, 
had crept into courtyards and gardens to spy on all who 
seemed suspect to them. 

We noted the names of those who were still alive, 
feeling that the time had not yet come to execute them. 
Moreover, three of them, Sopliak, Charovsky and Bugaev, 
were not in Gulai-Polye: they had disappeared shortly 
before my arrival. 

I made public the evidence proving the guilt of P. 
Charovsky, who had delivered Alexander Semeniuta and 
Martha Pivel to the police. The documents concerning the 
three missing guilty parties were kept secret. We hoped 
that these men would return to Gulai-Polye some day, and 
that we could then without great difficulty arrest them. As 
for the fourth man, Nazar Onikhchenko, the Coalition gov- 
ernment had sent him to the front, but he had succeeded 
in deserting, and was living at Gulai-Polye, without showing 
himself at community meetings or rallies. 

A short time after the release of the evidence concerning 
Peter Charovsky, Nazar Onikhchenko approached me in 
the center of Gulai-Polye. He was the same policeman and 
secret agent who, while searching our home with a warrant 


also searched my mother, and when she protested, slapped 

Now this cur, who had sold his body and soul to the 
police, rushed up to me, doffing his cap, shouting and 
stretching out his hand, "Nestor Ivanovich! Greetings!" 

The voice, the gestures, the hypocrisy of this Judas 
provoked in me an unspeakable disgust. I trembled with 
hatred and yelled at him with fury, "Get back, you miserable 
wretch, back, or I'll kill you!" He recoiled and turned 
white as a sheet. Unconsciously I put my hand in my 
pocket and feverishly felt my revolver, asking myself 
whether I should kill the cur on the spot, or if it were 
better to wait. 

Reason prevailed over fury and the thirst for vengeance. 

My strength left me, and I let myself fall into a chair 
at the entance of a nearby store. The merchant approached 
me, greeted me, and asked me questions, but I was too 
numb to comprehend. 

I excused myself for having occupied the chair and 
asked him to leave me alone. Ten minutes later I asked 
a peasant to help me get back to the (village) soviet of 
the Union of Peasants. 

Having heard of my encounter with Onikhchenko, the 
members of our group and those of the soviet of the Union 
of Peasants insisted on the release of the evidence which 
proved that, even while being a policeman (which the 
peasants knew very well, for he had arrested and beaten 
a number of them), Onikhchenko was in addition also a police 

All the comrades insisted that we release the evidence 
in order to justify the execution of the guilty one. 

I opposed this strenuously and begged the comrades to 
remain calm for the moment, saying that there were more 
dangerous traitors, in particular Sopliak, who, according to 
the evidence in our hands, was a specialist in spying. He 
had worked for a long time in Gulai-Polye and Pologi, and 
helped trail Comrade Semeniuta. 

Another, Bugaev, was also an accomplished informer. 
(As a waiter) he came and went among the peasants and 
workers, carrying on a wooden tray biscuits and seltzer- 
water, which he sold to them. You could see him espe- 


cially at the time when the tsarist government had promised 
a reward of 2000 rubles to anyone who would turn in 
Alexander Semeniuta. More than once Bugaev, in disguise, 
had disappeared for weeks at a time in the company of 
police chief Karachentsev and of Nazar Onikhchenko. They 
had covered the area around Gulai-Polye, Alexandrovsk 
and Ekaterinoslav. The police chief Karachentsev was killed- 
by Comrade Alexander Semeniuta, in the theater at Gulai- 
Polye. Bugaev, Sopliak and Charovsky were now living 
and hiding somewhere in the area. 

That is why it was necessary not to touch Nazar 
Onikhchenko. It was necessary to arm oneself with patience 
and try to get the others who, according to the peasants, 
sometimes came to Gulai-Polye. 

Even while asking the comrades not to molest Nazar 
Onikhchenko for the moment, I told them that it was 
important to seize all these curs and to kill them later, 
that such persons were a disgrace to the human community. 
(I said:) "One can expect nothing from them. Their crime 
is the most horrible of crimes, treason. A real Revolution 
must exterminate all of them. A free and harmonious 
society has no use for traitors. They must all perish by 
their own hands or be killed by the vanguard of the Revo- 

All my comrades and friends thereupon agreed that 
Nazar Onikhchenko should not be unmasked for the time 
being and his execution should be deferred. •► 

An Answer to the Article "Pomer Makhno" in 
Nova Pora on September 9, 1934, Detroit, Mich. 1 

Accidentally the article "Pomer Makhno" (Makhno 
Died), which appeared in Nova Pora (New Times) on 
September 9, 1934, reached my hands. 

I read the article and smiled to myself, and this at a 
time when I am in no mood for laughter. 

This letter by Galina Kuzmenko, wife of Makhno, appeared in Probuzhdenie, 
Organ of the Federated State-Opposed Labor Unions of the United States and 
Canada, Detroit, No. 50/51, Sept.-Oct., 1934, pp. 17-18, a few months after 
Makhno's death. 


Everything in it, from beginning to the end, cannot 
be taken seriously, and does not correspond to the facts. 

The man who wrote the article, like so many others who 
at different times have written about Makhno, heard the bells 
peal, but did not know where they were, he has heard of a 
person who was active in the Ukraine during the revolution, 
about a man Makhno, and that under his leadership there 
had existed a people's movement, a Makhnovshchina, but 
who Makhno was, what his aspirations were, why he fought, 
what ideals he cherished, represented, interpreted and 
defended, that he expressed the dreams, hopes and demands 
of the broad masses of the Ukrainian people, whose love 
and confidence he enjoyed, how great and of what quality 
the army was which Makhno headed, all this is unknown 
to the author of that article. 

Beginning with the first line of author errs in that 
he refers to Makhno as Michael, whereas his name was 

N. Makhno has never been a carpenter at a Parisian 
theater. Never has Makhno or have the Makhnovtse ever 
killed a rabbi, at no time has Makhno taken a Jewish girl 
to a priest to have her baptized. 

. Makhno was never and with no one married in church, 
for as a true revolutionary anarchist he did not accept the 
authority of the church. 

I was his wife, Galina Kusmenko, the daughter of a 
Ukrainian peasant. 

Makhno did not name his movement of insurrection an 
"anarchist republic". 

Makhno has never issued "his" money, either with or 
without his signature. These are all fairy tales and inven- 
tions, stories and legends created by people's fancies. 

Makhno had no association with types like Selenii, or 
Grigoriev, or Petlura, Konovalets, Vinnichenko and others. 
But for the author of that article all those who differ from 
him in their thinking, who are not attached to or do not 
support the Hetman |Skoropadsky |, are Makhnovtse. 

Similarly the author has failed to grasp the philosophy 
(literally, "theories") of Makhno and the Makhnovtse, and 


compounds nonsense about "Makhno's philosophy" which 
does not correspond with reality. 

Who then was Makhno, what did he fight for and what 
did he want to achieve? 

Nestor Makhno was the son of a poor peasant, who was 
a former serf. He was born in Gulai-Polye on October 
27, 1889. As a young lad scoundrels forced him to earn 
his bread as a shepherd, or he would be required to drive 
ox-carts for the landowners. After he gained a little inde- 
pendence and had completed the public school, he began 
work at a foundry. 

In 1906 Nestor Makhno joined the Ukrainian group o 

For his passionate, energetic and revolutionary activi 
ties, which characterized the revolutionary youth of tha 
period, for his unselfish struggle against tsarism, for tht 
political assassinations and expropriations, N. Makhno wa{ 
arrested and imprisoned. 

In 1910 he was sentenced to death by the Odessa military 
district court, lived for 52 days under this sentence, whe 
it was commuted to a life sentence of hard labor. 

Makhno remained in a Moscow prison until the out 
break of the Great Russian Revolution of 1917, when th 
door was opened to all political prisoners. 

Makhno returned to his home, his homeland and to hi 
familiar Gulai-Polye. 

With new strength and vigor he devoted himself to thi 
cause of the revolutionary movement and gained, in a short 
time, the sympathy, the confidence and the great love of 
the Ukrainian peasants and workers, who elected him to 
numerous responsible positions in their revolutionary strug- 
gle. And later, when the time came to take up arms to 
preserve the achievements of the Revolution and the right: 
of the people, these same peasants and workers name< 
him Batko [Fatheri, and placed him at the head of th 
Revolutionary Insurgent Army of the Ukraine (Makhnovtse] 

And this army, which began with the recruitment of 
volunteers, largely peasants, grew to number many tens of 




thousands of insurgents, and not two thousand as reported 
by Nova Pora. This Revolutionary Insurgent Army of 
Makhnovtse fought against all those who attempted to 
control the Ukraine and establish their mastery over it, and 
for the universal freedom of the workers of the Ukraine, 

for a free soviet system, for conditions that would provide 
for the whole country, free communities, subordinate to no 
one, social organs of self-government for the toilers. 

(They were) For the liberation of the Ukraine from 
any form of control, and for a socially, political-economically 
and national-internationally completely autonomous toiler's 
Ukraine. (They were) For the transfer of all lands, fac- 
tories, natural resources, plants and other enterprises into 
the hands of those workers who were directly concerned 
with the productive process. 

(They were) For freedom of speech, conscience, of the 
press, of political choice, etc. 

It is not possible to describe completely in a few words, 
limited (as one is) by time and space, what the Makhnovsh- 
china stood for, how it fought, and how the Makhnovshchina 
symbolized and defended the liberated will of the people. 

As if one could describe in a few words the uniformly 
long, hard, thorny and heroic road which the Makhnovtse, 
headed by Makhno, trod unselfishly for freedom and right. 

No, with a few words it is impossible to recount and 
explain everything. It takes much time and space, and it 
is wearisome to do so. 

Interested readers, however, who want to know the 
truth about Makhno and the Makhnovshchina, one can 
advise to read Arshinov's Istoriia Makhnovskogo Dvizhenia, 
Makhno's Russkiia Revolutsiia na Ukraina, and a series 
of articles by Makhno and other authors which have 
appeared in the anarchist press. 

As for the rest of the bulky literature, it concerns 
itself with this question to this day, like Nova Pora, largely 
for the purpose of spreading fairy tales, inventions and 
slander, which are contrary to the truth. 

G. Kuzmenko 
Vincennes, France 


Makhno's Visit to Uman: An Account of an 

E. Yakimov 1 

Many reminiscences have been written on the atamans, 
who, during our war of liberation, became notorious for 
their destructive work. 

I would like to relate something about the most eccen- 
tric, obnoxious, anarchist bandit, the "Ataman" Makhno. 

Makhno, an "anarchist", batko of the partisans, was 
an artist in partisan operations. This is not a strange 
phenomenon with us, it may be said to be a characteristic 
of the Ukrainian mentality: to obey no one, to recognize 
no authority, and to submit only to the whip. 

I met Makhnovtse on two occasions. Once I took their 
delegation to the chief of the Armed Forces, and the second 
time I was a witness to a visit by Makhno at our head- 
quarters in the city of Uman. It is of the latter occasion 
that I want to give an account. 

It was in the late summer of 1919, Makhno was very 
strong at the time, he had a cavalry of several thousand 
and about 10,000 infantry, or, more appropriately, drivers, 
for his infantry did not move on foot but drove on 
tachankas (carriages). On every tachanka there was one 
driver, another in charge of the machine gun, and a group 
of two or three armed men. His troops moved very quickly, 
made surprise raids and disappeared as rapidly as they 
came. In this way they successfully harassed their oppo- 

The Bolsheviks were thoroughly vexed by Makhno, for 
he took over their slogans. At a meeting in Vinnitsa a 
Bolshevik commissar said that the Communists had the 
same ideals as the Anarchists, but that people had not 
sufficiently matured for them. They possibly could be 
realized in 50 years, when Communism was firmly estab- 
lished. One would have to wait for some 40 years. 

1 E. Yakimov, "Hostini Makhna v Umani", Chervona Kalina, Lvov, 1931, 78-80. 
Yakimov was with the Galician brigades of the "U.S.S." (Ukrainian Sich Rifle- 
men). Here he recounts one instance where Makhno made common cause with 
the U.S.S. against Denikin's White Army. Uman is a city in the western part 
of Ukraine. 


At the end of August a brigade of the U.S.S. was 
engaged in combat with the Denikintse at Uman. The staff 
of the brigade was lodged in Khristinitse, another unit, 
under the command of Sotnik (Lieutenant) Noskovsky, was 
quartered at the station in Uman, and in the villages to 
the east and south was "Batko Makhno" with his "army". 
The right wing of the U.S.S. brigade was suspended, as 
they say, in thin air, and if was most desirable to extend 
this wing. For this purpose it was necessary that we come 
to an agreement with Makhno, who came to negotiate on 
this matter with the commander at Uman. He (Makhno) 
obligated himself to extend our right wing, and did this 
in his own way. He set up his headquarters in a southerly 
direction some 10-15 kilometers away from us, and, occupy- 
ing with his staff the center position, he distributed his 
units in the neighboring villages in such a manner that 
they could meet the attacking enemy from either side. 

Thus Makhno became our ally and (as such) paid a 
visit to the commander of the city of Uman. 

The day before his arrival one could see his emissaries 
and spies survey that part of the city which their "Batko" 
would pass through. They prepared to take their places so 
that if a sneak attack Were attempted, they would be in a 
position" to give warning. 

At ten o'clock in the morning there arrived an armed 
cavalry troop of 20 men, all dressed to their own individual 
taste, some using a rug for a saddle, and others having a 
saddle with a rug under it. Behind this advance guard came 
five tachankas, on each one was mounted a machine gun. 
In the middle carriage was Makhno, dressed in a dark 
green cossack coat, and with him (on the carriage) were 
three men. Behind the last tachanka there was again a 
troop of riders as in front. 

Before our headquarters the riders formed two straight 
lines, permitting the carriages to pass between them. Faced 
with such "dear guests", the Jews had closed up their 
shops. At the house in which our staff occupied the first 
floor, Makhno dismounted and went up the steps. The 
"batko" was preceded by two guards, with their revolvers 
at the ready, and followed by two other guards, who provided 
protection from the rear. 



As the "dear guest", with loaded pistols, entered the 
room of our headquarters, the commander arose to greet 
him. Makhno immediately occupied his chair. — I recall 
how Makhno disposed the duties of his office. A Pole, one 
of his men, came to him with the request for home leave. 
He received his discharge, with the "Batko Makhno" signa- 
ture, and the "treasurer" gave him money for the trip. 
He got out half a meter of Kerenskys 2 in 40 rubel 
denominations, and the Pole went home. Makhno also 
punished some marines who had been arrested by our 
police for looting. Also a delegation of men from his 
guards came before him with the request, "batko, permit 
us to occupy ourselves with the Jews, for we find it difficult 
to leave them alone." But here our administration stepped 
in energetically, and gave them to understand that as long 
as Galician units were in the city, there would be no 
question of molesting the Jews. 

Makhno remained for some time at the headquarters, 
and then left in the same manner as he had arrived. 

Shortly after this Makhno was attacked by Denikin. He 
defeated the enemy, and then moved eastwards. For a long 
period he operated on the steppes, moving from place to 
place, until the Bolsheviks closed in on him from all sides, 
and he was forced to flee with a small group across the 
Rumanian border, and later to Poland. His band, however, 
as is the custom of partisans, spread out in all directions, 
and disappeared without leaving a trace. 

Preliminary Political and Military Agreement between the 
Soviet Government of the Ukraine and the Revolutionary 
Insurrectionary (Makhnovist) Army of the Ukraine 

"Part I — Political Agreement. 

1. Immediate release of all Makhnovists and Anarchists 
imprisoned or in exile in the territories of the Soviet 

-' Money issued by the short-lived Kerensky government. 

'The agreement, signed on October 15, 1920, appears in Arshinov, Geschichte 
der Machno-Bewegung , 1918-1921, 214-216: the transl. used here is from Voline, 
The Unknown Revolution, 1 88-1 89. 



Republics; cessation of all persecutions of Makhnovists or 
•Anarchists (only those who carry on armed conflict against 
the Soviet Government are not covered by this clause). 

2. Complete freedom for all Makhnovists and Anarchists 
of all forms of public expression and propaganda for their 
principles and ideas, by speech and the press, with the 
exception of anything that might call for the violent over- 
throw of the Soviet Power, and on condition that the 
requirements of the military censorship be respected. For 
all kinds of publications, the Makhnovists and Anarchists, 
as revolutionary organizations recognized by the Soviet 
Government, may make use of the technical apparatus 
of the Soviet state, while naturally submitting to the techni- 
cal rules for publications. 

3. Free participation in the elections to the Soviets; 
and the right of Makhnovists and Anarchists to be elected 
thereto. Free participation in the organization of the forth- 
coming Fifth Pan-Ukrainian Congress of Soviets, which 
shall take place next December. 

iSigned | (By mandate of the Soviet Government of 
the Ukrainian SSR): Yakoleff. Plenipotentiaries of the 
Council and the Commander of the Revolutionary Insur- 
rectionary (Makhnovist) Army of the Ukraine: Kurilenko, 
Popoff. • 

"Part II — Military Agreement. 

1. The Revolutionary Insurrectionary (Makhnovist) 
Army of the Ukraine will join the armed forces of the 
Republic as a partisan army, subordinate, in regard to 
operations, to the supreme command of the Red Army. It 
will retain its established internal structure, and does not 
have to adopt the bases and principles of the regular Red 

2. While crossing Soviet territory, at the front, or going 
between fronts, the Insurrectionary Army will accept into 
its ranks neither detachments of nor deserters from the 
Red Army. 


a. The units of the Red Army, as well as isolated Red 
soldiers, who have met and joined the Insurrectionary 
Army behind the Wrangel front, shall re-enter the ranks of 
the Red Army when they again make contact with it. 


b. The Makhnovist partisans behind the Wrangel front, 
as well as all men at present in the Insurrectionary Army, 
will remain there, even if they were previously mobilized 
by the Red Army. 

3. For the purpose of destroying the common enemy — 
the White Army — the Revolutionary Insurrectionary 
(Makhnovist) Army of the Ukraine will inform the working 
masses that collaborate with it of the agreement that has 
been concluded, it will call upon the people to cease all 
action hostile to the Soviet power; for its part, the Soviet 
power will immediately publish the clauses of the agree- 

4. The families of combatants in the Insurrectionary 
(Makhnovist) Army living in the territories of the Soviet 
Republic shall enjoy the same rights as those of soldiers 
of the Red Army and for this purpose shall be supplied by 
the Soviet government of the Ukraine with the necessary 

iSigned | Commander of the Southern Front: Frunze; 
Members of the Revolutionary Council of the Southern 
Front: Bela Kun, Gussev; Plenipotentiary Delegates of the 
Council and Commander of the Makhnovist Insurrectionary 
Army: Kurilenko, Popoff." 




Arthur E. Adams, Bolsheviks in the Ukraine: The Second Campaign, 1918-1919, 

New Haven, 1963. 
William E. D. Allen, The Ukraine, Cambridge, 1941. 
Peter Arshinov, Istoriia Makhnovskogo Dvizhenia, 1918-1921 (A History of the 

Makhno Movement, 1 91 8-1 921 ). The writer used the German edition, Geschichte 

der Machno-Bewegung, 1918-1921 , mit einem Vorwort von Wotlin. Berlin, 1923. 
Paul Avrich, The Russian Anarchists, Princeton, 1967. 
Bolshaya Sovetskaya Encyclopedia, Moscow, 1954. 
George A. Brinkley, The Volunteer Army and Allied Intervention in South Russia, 

1917-1921, Notre Dame, Ind., 1966. 
Edward Hallett Carr, The Bolshevik Revolution, 1917-1923 New York, 1951-53, 

3 vols. 

, Michael Bakunin, New York, 1937. 

Wasyl Chaplenko, Na Ukraine, New York, 1 960. A short novel. 

Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Gabriel Cohn-Bendit. Obsolete Communism: The Left-Wing 

Alternative, Translated by Arnold Pomerans, New York, 1968. 
Dmitro Doroshenko, History of the Ukraine, English transl. Edmonton, 1939. 
Paul Eltzbacher, Der Anarchismus, Berlin, 1902. Transl. by Steven T. Byington, 

London, 1960. 
David Footman, Civil War in Russia, London and New York, 1 961 . 
H. Goerz, Die Molotschnaer Ansiedlung, Winnipeg, 1950. 
M. Gorky, V. Molotov, K. Voroshilov, S. Kirov, A. Zhdanov, J. Stalin, Editors, 

The History of the Civil War in the U.S.S.R., New York, n.d. Transl. of the 

1936 Russian edition. 
Daniel Guerin, L'Anarchisme, Paris, 1965. 

History of the Communist Parry of the Soviet Union, Moscow, 1960. 
Eric J. Hobsbawm, Primitive Rebels: Studies in Archaic Forms of Social Movement 

in the 19th and 20th Centuries, Manchester, 1959. 
Stefan Horak, "Der Brest-Litowsker Friede zwischen der Ukraine und den Mittel- 

machten vom 9. Februar 1918 in seinen Auswirkungen auf die politische 

Entwicklung der Ukraine." Unpubl. Ph.D. dissertation, University of Erlangen, 

Irving L. Horowitz, ed., The Anarchists, New York, 1 964. 

Michael Hrushevsky, A History of Ukraine, English transl., New Haven, 1941. 
Elias Hurwicz, Staatsmanner und Abenteurer: Russische Portraits von Witte bis 

Trotzki, 1891-1925, Leipzig, 1925, 255-274. 
James Jolt, The Anarchists, London and New York, 1 964. 
Konstantyn Kononenko, Ukraine and Russia, A History of the Economic Relations 

Between Ukraine and Russia. 1654-1917 Milwaukee, 1958. 
V. I. Lenin, Toward the Seizure of Power, New York, 1 932. 
G. Lohrenz, Sagradowka, Winnipeg, 1947. 
Nestor Makhno, Russkaya Revolutsia na Ukraina (The Russian Revolution in 

Ukraine), Paris, 1929. 
, Pod Udarami Kontr-Revolutsii (Under the Blows of the Counter-Revolution), 

Paris, 1936. 


Ukrainskaya Revolutsia (The Ukrainian Revolution), Paris, 1937. 

Clarence A. Manning, Ukraine Under the Soviets, New York, 1953. 

Arnold D. Margolin, From a Political Diary. Russia, the Ukraine, and America 

1 905-1 945, New York, 1 946. 
Sir John Maynard, Russia in Flux, New York, 1962. 

Jan M. Meijer, ed., The Trotsky Papers 1917-1922. The Hague, 1964, vol. 1. 
Ida Mett, / contadini russi 50 anni dopo, Milan, 1967. 
I. Nahayewsky, History of Ukraine, Philadelphia, 1962. 
Max Nettlau, Ocherkt po Istorii Anarkhysheskikh Idei (Outline of the History of 

Anarchist Ideas), Detroit, 1951. 
Alexei Nikolaiev, Zhysn Nestora Makhno, Riga, n.d. A novel. 
Max Nomad, Apostles of Revolution, Boston, 1 939. 
Oleh Semenovych Pidhainy, The Formation of the Ukrainian Republic, Toronto 


J. G. Rempel, Mein Heimatdorf Nieder Chortitza, Rosthern, Sask., Canada, n.d. 
John S. Reshetar, Jr., The Ukrainian Revolution, 1917-1920, Princeton, 1952. 
J. Stalin, Anarchismus oder Sozialismus (German transl.) Moscow, 1950, vol. 1. 
Robert S. Sullivant, Soviet Politics and the Ukraine 1917-1957, New York, 1962. 
Donald W. Treadgold, Twentieth Century Russia, Chicago. 1959. 
Alexander Udovychenko, Ukraina u Viini za Derzhavnist (Ukraine in the War for 

Independence) Winnipeg, 1954, 3 vols. 
Ukraine: A Concise Encyclopedia, Toronto, 1963. 
Voline (also Wollin, V. M. Eichenbaum), The Unknown Revolution: Kronsta 

1921 — Ukraine 1918-1921, transl. by Holley Cantine, New York, 1955. 
Bertram D. Wolfe, Three Who Made a Revolution, 4th edition, New York, 1 964. 
George Woodcock, Anarchism, New York, 1 962. 


Chervona Kalina, Lvov, Poland (Ukrainian). 1931: E. Yakimov, "Hostini Makhna 
v Umani" (Makhno's Visit to Uman), The Account of an Eye-Witness; 1932: 
Dr. Paul Dubas, "Z rayonu Makhna" (From Makhno's District); 1935: M.S., 
"Makhno ta yogo viisko" (Makhno and His Army), Report of the Chief of the 
Ukrainian Nationalist Counter-intelligence, October 4, 1919; F. Meleshko, 
"Nestor Makhno ta yoho anarkhia" (Nestor Makhno and His Anarchy); 1936: 
M. Irchan (pseud, for M. Babiuk), "Makhno i Makhnivtsi" (Makhno and the 

Delo Truda, Organ of the Russian Anarchists-Communists, Paris (Russian). N. 
Makhno, "Anarkhism e nashe vremya" (Anarchism in Our Times), No. 4, 
1925; "Put borbei protiv gosudarstva" (The Direction of Our Struggle with 
the State), No. 17, 1926; "Kak Igut Bolsheviki" (How the Bolsheviks Prevari- 
cate), No. 22, 1927; "Mirovaya politika Anglii e mirovei sadachi revolutionnogo 
truda" (England's Policy and the Duties of Revolutionary Labor), No. 26/27, 
1927; "Velikii Oktyabr na Ukraine" (The Great October in the Ukraine), No. 
29, 1927; "Krestyanstvo e Bolsheviki" (The Peasants and the Bolsheviks), No. 
33/34, 1928; "Otkretoe pismo partii VKP e ye CK" (An Open Letter to the 
Communist Party and its Central Committee), No. 37/38, 1928; "K 10 oi 
godovtsine revoluts. povstanchestva na Ukraine — Makhnovtsine" (On the 10th 
Anniversary of the Ukrainian Revolutionary Insurrection — Makhnovtse), 
No. 44/45, 1928; and other articles by Makhno and others. 

Delo Truda — Probuzhdenie, New York (Russian). B.T., "Is dalekogo proshlogo" 
(From the Distant Past), Remembering N. I. Makhno, No. 41, 1953; Voline, 
"Nestor Makhno" and G. Maksimov, "Nestor Makhno e pogrome" (Nestor 
Makhno and the Pogroms), No. 51, 1956, reprinted from Delo Truda, Nos. 
82 (1034) and 84 (1935). 

Der Bote, Saskatoon, Canada (German). Gerhard Toews, "Schonfeld Werde- und 
Opfergang einer deutschen Siedlung in der Ukraine", Dec. 28, 1 965; N. Klassen, 
"Machno und Lenin", March 1, 1966. 


Deutsches Allgemeines Sonntagsblatt, Hamburg. Wolfgang Berkefeld, "Bomben 
fur ein Paradies?" Nov. 10, 1968. 

Golos Rodine, Moscow, " 'Prosvezhdennie Evropeitse' e Makhno", Vol. 34, No. 1294, 
April, 1969. 

Literaturnaya Gasela, Moscow. Oless Gonchar, "Chernei Koster" (Black Fire), a 
short novel based on the meeting between Makhno and the Ukrainian 
anthropologist Yavornitsky, No. 47, Nov. 28, 1967. 

Living Age, Boston. J. Kessel, "Buccaneers of the Steppes", reprint from La Revue 
de France, Vol. 315, Nov. 4, 1922. 

Mennonite Life, Newton, Kansas. G. Lohrenz, "Nonresistance Tested", XVII, No. 2. 
April, 1962. 

Modern Monthly, Max Nomad, "The Epic of Nestor Makhno, The 'Bandit' Who 
Saved Moscow", IX, Nos. 6, 7, 8, 1935-1936. 

Nedilia, Lvov, Poland (Ukrainian). "Makhno. Istoriya odnoho povstanskoho 
vatashka" Na osnovi "Istorika i Sovremennika" nodav J. Petrovich, Lviv. 
(Makhno. The History of a Rebel Leader) following the account of |K. V. 
Gerassimenkoi "Istorik e Sovremennik ", by J Petrovich, VIII, Nos. 40-46, 

Probuzhdenie, Organ of the Federated Anarchists of the United States and Canada, 
Detroit (Russian). L. Lipotkin, "Nestor Makhno", reporting on the death of 
Makhno; and G. Kusmenko, "Vidpovid na stattu 'Pomer Makhno' . . ." (An 
Answer to the Article 'Makhno Died' . . .), No. 50/51, 1934; N. Makhno, "Na 
svezhei moguloi T. N. Rogdayeva" (At the New Grave of T. N. Rogdaiev); 
and Muromets, "Nestor Makhno", No. 52/53. 1934; Ivan Kartachov, "Pisnya 
Makhnovtsev" (Song of the Makhnovtse), No. 56/57, 1935; D. G. , "Dve knigi o 
Makhno" (Two Books on Makhno); and Alexander Nikolaiev, "Kratkaya 
pamyatka o Nestore Makhno" (A Short Testimony to the Memory of Nestor 
Makhno), No. 76/77, 1936. 

Umanita Nova, Organ of the Federazione Anarchica Italiana, Rome. Mario Manto- 
vani, "La nostra Rivoluzione d'Ottobre si chiama Nestor Mackno", and 
"Proclama Macknovista", XLVII, No. 40, Oct. 14, 1967. 

Volna, New York. W. Chudolye, " 'Istoriya Makhnovskogo dvizheniya' P. Arshinov" 
(Arshinov's "History of the Makhno Movement"), No. 51, 1924, a book review; 
"Materiali po isucheniyu revolutsionnogo dvizheniya v Rossii: a) Klevetniches- 
kaya proklamatsiya Bolshevikov protiv Makhnovtsev, b) Proklamatsiya 
Makhnovtsev (Documents for the Study of the Revolutionary Movement in 
Russia; a) The Slanderous Proclamation of the Bolsheviks against the 
Makhnovtse, b) The Makhnovite (anti-pogrom) Proclamation, No. 58, 1924. 



Adams, Arthur E. 68 

Alexeiev, General Michael 74, 75 

Antoini, Volodya 19,20 

Antonov-Ovseenko, Vladimir 76, 
77, 81 

Antypenko, I. 15 

Arshinov (also: Arschinoff), 
Peter 22, 23, 25-30, 39-42, 58, 68, 
69, 74, 78, 82, 85, 92, 94, 96, 98, 
99,100, 104,105, 109, 123, 126 

Avrich, Paul 33, 44, 108 

Babiuk M. see: Irchan, M. 
Bukunin, Michael 18, 20, 109, 110 
Baron, Aron 94, 105 
Bela Kun, see: Kun, Bela 
Berkman, Alexander 92-96 
Bloshchenko, Ivan 46 
Bogdanov 104 
Brinkley, George A. 87 
Budyenney, Marshal Simeon 76, 

Bukshowanyj, Major Osyp 72 

Call, Paul 14 

Carnot, Sadi, President of France 

Chamberlain, W. H. 33 
Chaplenko, Vasyl 113 
Chudolye, W. 58 
Clemenceau, G. 36 
Cohn-Bendit, Daniel and Gabriel 


De Gaulle, Charles 109 

Derksen, G. 54, 55 

Denikin, General Anton I. 43, 

68-70, 73-86, 98, 1 05, 1 1 7, 1 24 
Doroshenko, D. 37 
Dubas, Paul 47, 48 
Duck, Jacob 54, 55 
Dybenko, F. M. 79, 80 
Dzerzhinsky, Felix 25 

Eichhorn, Field Marshal von 38 
Elisabeth, Empress of Austria 

Fast, G. H. 67 
Flechtin, Senya 93 
Franz, Sister Frieda 90 
Frunze, Michael V. 76, 

87, 128 

Gaenko, Fedora 103 

Goerz (Neufeld), Anna 32 

Gogol, Nicholas 13 

Goldman, Emma 92, 96 

Goldschmid, Maria, see: Korn, 

Golovine, General Nicholas N. 45 
Gonchar, Oless 113 
Gotz, Abram 26 
Grigoriev, N. 68-70, 82, 121 
Guerin, Daniel 128 
Gussev 128 

Harder, Peter 86 

Hertling, Chancellor Georg von 

Herzen, Alexander 98 
Hrushevsky, Michael 35 
Holubovich, Premier 37 
Horak, Stefan 37, 38 
Hryhoryiv, see: Grigoriev, N. 

Irchan, M. 11, 112 

Jaworskyj, Zenon 72, 73 
Joll, James 18, 110 

Kaledin, General Alexis M. 36, 74, 

Kalinin, Michael 19 
Kamenev, Lev 76-79, 104; General 

Sergei S. 79 
Karachentsev 21-23, 120 
Karetnik, Simeon 70, 87 
Kartachov, Ivan 110 
Kerensky, Alexander 30, 35, 49, 

Kessel, Josef 56 
Klein, Anna 54 

Konovalets, Colonel E. 86, 121 
Korn, Maria 95 
Kornilov, General L. 74 


Krasnov, General P. N. 43, 74 
Krestinski, Nicholas M. 76, 95 
Kropotkin, Prince Peter 18, 40, 95, 

Kun, Bela 87, 128 
Kurilenko127, 128 
Kuzmenko, Galina 22, 89, 102, 103, 


Lashkovitz 104 

Lenin, V. I. 16, 19, 30, 34, 35, 36, 

40, 76, 77, 78, 81, 92, 95, 98 
Lepechenko 21 
Levadney, Ivan 21, 22 
Lipotkin, L. 95 
Louis XIV 98 
Luckyj, Myron 72 
Ludendorff, Erich von 37 
Lvov, Prince George 35 

Maiakovsky, Vladimir 25 

Makhno, Emilian 15. Gregory 
(Grishka) 15, 58, 82. Nestor: 
early years 14, 15, 16, 122; 
guerilla warfare 28-58; Insur- 
gent army 60-68; and Grigoriev 
68-70; and Petlura 70-73; and 
Lenin 40, 41, 76; in Rumania 
88, 89; in Poland 89, 90; in Ger- 
many 90; and the Jews 69, 
93, 94, 95, 104, 105, 125, 126; and 
the Germans 106, 107; and the 
clergy 102, 103, 108; the person 
of 22, 50, 58, 99, 100; marriage 
102, 103; death 96, 97. Ssawa 15 

Manning, C. A. 70 

Margolin, Arnold D. 93 

Marusja Nikiforova 49 

Marx, Karl 92 

Maynard, Sir John 98 

McKinley, President William 18 

Meleshko, Fedor 26, 48, 49, 58, 
62,97, 102-105 

Mett, Ida (Lazarevich) 91, 92, 93, 

Mikhnenko, Ivan 14. Nestor Ivano- 
vich, see: Makhno, Nestor 

Milner, Lord 36 

Milyukov, Paul N. 75 

Nestor, Monk, Monastery of the 

Caves 14 
Neufeld, Jacob 32 
Nechaev, S. 109 
Nicholas II, Tsar 30, 35 
Noskowskyj, Zenon 72 
Noumenko, "Batko" 49, 54, 55 

Pancho Villa 25 
Peter the Great 25 
Petlura, Simeon 42, 43, 46, 47, 61, 
68, 70, 71, 72, 74, 78, 93, 98, 121 

Petrovich, J. (Kurdydyk, Anatol) 

16, 83 
Petrushevych, Dr. E. 72 
Picqueray, May 91, 92, 93, 101 
Pidhainy, O. S. 36 
Pilsudski, Josef 72, 73 
Pravda, Mitka 55, 56; "Batko" 

Simeon 49, 51-56 
Proudhon, Pierre 96 
Pugachov, Emilian 13 

Razin, Stephen ("Stenka") 13 
Rempel, J. G. 51, 67 
Repin, llya 32 
Rogdaiev, T. N. 96 
Reshetar, John J. 68 

Schwarzbart 72, 93, 94 
Semeniuta, Alexander 20, 21, 23, 

118; Prokop21,118 
Shepelye, Ivan Y. (Makhno) 41 
Shkuro, General Andrei 79-83 
Skoropadsky, Hetman Paul 38, 

40, 42,68, 78, 98, 121 
Souchy, Augustin 100 
Stalin, J. 19, 36, 42, 75, 76, 92, 93, 

95, 97 
Steimer, Molly 93 
Sverdlow, Jacob M. 40 

Taras Bulba 13, 112 

Tchus, Fedor 41, 42, 58, 64, 88, 

Toews, G. 51 , 53 
Topolye, Ivan 45 
Treadgold, Donald W. 69 
Trotsky, L. 40, 42, 68, 76, 77, 81, 

92, 93, 95, 98, 105 

Uduvychenko, Alexander 90 
Umberto, King of Italy 18 

Vinnichenko, V. 35, 121 

Voline (V. M. Eichenbaum, also: 
Wollin) 22, 23, 29, 30, 40, 68, 
69, 77, 84, 85, 91, 92, 94, 96, 98, 
100, 101, 105-109, 126 

Voroshilov, Marshal K. 76, 82 

Warkentin, John 51 
Wiens, H. B. 49, 53, 56 
William II, Emperor 38 
Wolfe, "Bertram D. 26 
Wollin, see: Voline 
Wrangel, Baron Peter 68, 72, 
86, 87, 93, 98, 117, 127, 128 

Yakimov, E. 124 
Yaroslavsky, Emilian 25 
Yavornitsky, Dmitro I. 113, 114 

Zinoviev, Gregory E. 78 



Few cemeteries in the world have as diverse occupants 
as the cemetery Pere-Lachaise, in Paris. Here are found 
the tombs of Heloise and Abelard, Moliere, Balzac, Chopin 
and Sarah Bernhardt. It was on this cemetery that the 
Paris Commune of 1871 made its last stand, that thousands 
of the communards met their death and were interred. But 
one of Pere-Lachaise's most unusual tenants was laid to 
rest there in 1934, by a motley crowd of several hundred 
anarchists, emigrants and sympathizers. It was Nestor 
Makhno, hero and villain of the Ukrainian steppes. 

Makhno was only forty-five years of age when he died 
of drink, disappointment and tuberculosis. Born in Gulai- 
Polye, a remote Ukrainian village, he had early turned to 
anarchism and violence, and landed in a Moscow prison, 
from which he was released by the Revolution of 1 91 7. During 
the Russian Civil War, from 1918 to 1921, Makhno held 
sway over large parts of the Ukraine. He succeeded in 
attracting to his cause tens of thousands of landless pea- 
sants, deserters, criminals, rebels, adventurers and ideal- 
ists. Moreover, he engaged in mobile warfare so success- 
fully that his guerilla tactics have served in many ways 
as a model for partisan operations in many parts of the 

The author of this book, Dr. Victor Peters, is a professor 
of history at Moorhead State College, in Minnesota. The 
foreword was written by Senator Paul Yuzyk, Ottawa,